This afternoon, a Russian Antonov An-124-100 military cargo plane organized by the Russian Defense Ministry arrived to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, full of medical supplies including personal protective equipment like masks and medical equipment. We have photographs of the arrival, taken by our photographer and artist in residence, Aaron Asis. The aircraft had left Chkalovsky airfield, which is located 31 kilometers outside Moscow, last night, made a stop at Shannon airport in Ireland to refuel, and then landed in New York.
According to The Guardian, which reported on the plane’s departure, the aid comes from Vladimir Putin and was offered “during a one-on-one telephone conversation when the two sides discussed measures to fight coronavirus.” Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted with a video of the plane leaving:
🇷🇺🇺🇸 Following phone talk between Presidents #Putin & @realDonaldTrump #Russia sends largest cargo aircraft An-124 Ruslan ✈️ with 😷 medical supplies (masks + equipment) to #US to help fight #COVID19 pandemic, save lives of American citizens. 🤝 The plane is en route #RussiaHelps pic.twitter.com/efeSK78cuB
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) April 1, 2020
Putin’s spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said, “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid. Now that this situation has affected everyone without exception and is global, there is no alternative to joint action in the spirit of partnership and mutual help.” Peskov also says that Putin believes there may be some reciprocity in aid: “It is important to note that when offering assistance to U.S. colleagues, the President (Putin) assumes that when U.S. manufacturers and materials gain momentum, they will also be able to reciprocate if necessary.”
On Monday, Trump believed the aid had already arrived and announced from the White House Rose Garden ,”Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.” However, the plane arrived today and items were unloaded from the back of the military plane at the end of a tarmac. U.S. Customs and Border Protection was on hand.
Inside the cargo plane, items were packaged in cardboard boxes and plastic. A senior U.S. administration official is quoted in Politico as saying, “the U.S. will immediately put to use any needed items that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration…Likewise, the United States is sending equipment and supplies to many other countries and will do more as we are able.”
Both Reuters and The Guardian note that the Russian aid will likely be unpopular amongst critics of Trump. Reuters reporters write that such critics, “argue that Moscow uses such aid as a geopolitical and propaganda tool to advance its influence, something the Kremlin denies.” The Guardian writes, “The delivery is likely to stir controversy among critics of Trump, who have said Putin will portray the goodwill gesture as a public relations coup and use it to bolster Russia’s efforts to escape sanctions for meddling in the 2016 US elections.”
There is no word yet on where the supplies will be disseminated, but seems likely that New York, with its current shortage and high number of cases at the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, may receive some.
Next, check out the field hospital now located in Central Park. See the 12 groundbreaking hospitals in NYC that have closed, along with the rest of our coronavirus coverage.