A military cargo plane carrying medical supplies to help the US combat the coronavirus outbreak has taken off from an airbase in Russia, after President Trump accepted an offer of assistance from Vladimir Putin.
“The plane with masks and medical equipment on board left for the United States,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced in a brief statement early on Wednesday.
Footage released by the ministry provided an up-close look inside the cargo plane, showing hundreds of boxes of supplies en route for the US, as well as the moment the craft took off for its nearly 8,000 kilometer trek.
The aid shipment comes after a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart on Tuesday, during which the two discussed the fast growing pandemic and a major shortage of protective gear in the US, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Though US President Donald Trump announced the “very, very large planeload” of supplies before it was confirmed by Moscow, Peskov later said Russia had agreed to help, as the pandemic “affects everyone without exception and is of a global nature.”
Reports of the shipment prompted complaints from a number of American pundits, who read vague ulterior motives into the gesture, seeing the aid as a useless “propaganda ploy” at best, or even a pretext for a Russian spy operation. But the supplies come just as the US’ emergency stockpile is running dry, nearly depleted of vital protective gear for frontline healthcare workers fighting the pandemic.
Last week, Moscow also sent 600 much-needed ventilators, as well as masks and teams of medical experts, to virus-stricken Italy, where Covid-19 has killed more people than in any other country. Russophobic commentators there, too, were appalled, seeing the aid as a prelude to a Russian invasion, however a number of top Italian officials have since expressed gratitude for the “act of solidarity.”