The United States has purchased fans from a company under its own sanctions regime as part of an aid package sent by Russian President Vladimir Putin to New York to help fight the coronavirus epidemic.
The delivery of medical supplies by Russia on a giant AN-124 cargo plane included ventilators manufactured by Kret, a subsidiary of Rostec, the Kremlin’s defense conglomerate, which is blacklisted by the US Treasury
The US Treasury’s Bureau of Foreign Assets Control told the FT that “humanitarian supplies received from the Russian government do not appear to be sanctioned by the Russian / Ukrainian sanctions authorities administered by Ofac.”
“To the extent that such sanctions apply, the Treasury is authorized to authorize American people to conduct transactions that are consistent with US foreign policy and national security interests,” Ofac said.
Images of workers at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport unloading boxes stamped with the manufacturer’s Kret logo were repeatedly aired on Russian state television Thursday, the day after the plane’s landing – a embarrassing picture for the United States amid suggestions that it might consider easing sanctions against Moscow during the pandemic.
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An air traffic controller thanked the pilot of the AN-124 for “all the help you are providing,” while US President Donald Trump said that the assistance was “a very nice gesture” from Mr. Putin.
“I am not concerned with Russian propaganda,” said Mr. Trump. “He offered a lot of high quality things that I accepted. It can save a lot of lives. I will take it every day. ”
US sanctions normally prohibit all US citizens and corporations from dealing with entities on their list of specially designated nationals. Kret was added to the SDN list in 2014 for its manufacturing of “electronic war and intelligence equipment” as well as several important military systems and components.
“The two countries have provided each other with humanitarian aid in times of crisis and will no doubt do so in the future,” US Department of State spokesman Morgan Ortagus said on Wednesday. “Now is the time to work together to defeat a common enemy that threatens our lives.”
Russia said some of the goods for the shipment were paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund that is subject to more limited sanctions by the US Treasury limiting its debt financing, although it is not on the blacklist. The RDIF said it had not paid for the Kret fans. The United States said it paid for the entire shipment and denied that RDIF divided the cost.
As coronavirus cases in Russia continue to rise – to 4,149 on Friday, with 34 deaths – Putin has sought to project Russian power abroad by offering aid to more affected countries .
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The Russian Defense Ministry has delivered at least 15 loads of medical equipment, along with 100 virologists and eight medical teams, to Italy, home to some of the EU’s biggest supporters for ending Western sanctions against Moscow.
On Friday, Mr. Putin also sent aid to Serbia, whose President Aleksandar Vucic said “Russian leaders are thinking of Serbia and the friendly Serb people.”
Rostec said that Kret supplied medical facilities to regions of Russia with 5,700 respirators and had no commercial contract to sell them. “The decision to send state aid is the prerogative of the president and the cabinet,” said Rostec.
Putin’s detractors attacked him for sending aid to other countries instead of focusing on Russia’s internal needs.
“Russia has really sold masks and medical supplies from the United States when doctors and nurses in the country do not have masks and are infected,” twisted opposition leader Alexei Navalny. “Putin has gone mad. “