Firm under sanctions made Russian ventilators shipped to U.S., pictures show

"It is simply a farce," tweeted a group of Russian doctors, saying they've been collecting donations to buy supplies while Moscow sells them to Washington.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Matthew Bodner and Abigail Williams

MOSCOW — A subsidiary of a Russian company that has been sanctioned by the U.S. manufactured ventilators that were transported from Moscow to New York this week to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic, according to pictures of the delivery.

When the military plane touched down at John F. Kennedy airport on Wednesday it was met with a warm welcome by air traffic controllers, but as the boxes filled with ventilators were unloaded, images showed them identified as a model known as the “Aventa-M,” a type of ventilator manufactured by a subsidiary of a sanctioned Russian company.

The manufacturer is the Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ), located in the city of Chelyabinsk, 930 miles east of Moscow, Russian media group RBC reported Friday. UPZ is part of the Concern Radio-Electric Technologies (KRET), which is itself a unit of Russian state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec.

Both Rostec and KRET have been on the US sanctions list since 2014, which means U.S firms and nationals are barred from doing business with them.

The flight was the result of a phone call between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Monday, and was characterized by the Kremlin as a humanitarian aid flight — implying the ventilators and masks aboard the flight were donated to the US.

However, the State Department in a statement Thursday said it paid for the cargo. Replying to this charge, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state news agencies that the cost of the cargo was, in fact, split 50/50 — with half of the manifest paid for by the U.S., and half paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Moscow’s sovereign wealth fund.

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund started under Putin in 2011, which was added to U.S. sectoral sanctions in 2015.

It said had paid for half the shipment of medical equipment to the United States, but it declined to comment when asked about the medical supplies..

A State Department official told NBC News on Friday that medical equipment and supplies do not fall under sanctions.

“The Russian Direct Investment Fund is subject to certain debt and equity-related sectoral sanctions, which would not apply to transactions for the provision of medical equipment and supplies," the official said.

Also on Friday, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told Reuters, “Aren’t ventilators needed in the United States?" She added that Russia could take them back if they were not wanted.

The gesture has come under political fire — both in the U.S. and in Russia as medical supplies are sorely needed in both countries.

In the United States, Trump critics — a demographic that strongly overlaps with critics ofPutin — decried the White House for accepting humanitarian aid from a major geopolitical competitor.

“Stalin exported grain from Ukraine during the famine to earn hard currency for his crackbrained prestige projects,” David Frum, a staff writer for The Atlantic and prominent Trump critic, wrote on Twitter. “Putin is exporting medical supplies to the US [...] for the same reasons.”

In Russia, opposition figures slammed the Kremlin’s decision to ship ventilators and protective equipment to a foreign country as Russian doctors are being asked to sew their own masks and reports suggest that modern, quality ventilators are lacking in hospitals.

“Well, great. We have been collecting donations to buy our medical personnel protective gear, and our authorities sell [personal protective equipment] to the U.S.,” the Doctors Alliance, a Russian union of opposition-oriented medical professionals, wrote on Twitter. “It is simply a farce.”

The Doctors Alliance tweet was a reaction to an April 2 statement from the U.S. State Department contesting the Kremlin’s characterization of the delivery as a humanitarian aid flight, insisting instead that the much-needed medical supplies and equipment were paid for by the U.S.

Replying to this charge, Zakharova said that the cost of the cargo was, in fact, split 50/50 — with half of the manifest paid for by the U.S., and half paid by the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Matthew Bodner reported from Moscow and Abigail Williams from Washington.