In March 2020, as the United States was beginning to experience its first wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitals found themselves overwhelmed with patients and experienced shortages of vital equipment.
On April 1, a Russian military plane arrived at New York’s JFK Airport loaded with 60 tons of medical equipment, including 45 Russian-produced Aventa-M ventilators meant to help coronavirus patients in intensive care keep breathing.
Initially, there was confusion over whether the planeload of equipment was aid, as Russia portrayed it, or if the American side had paid for it. The U.S. State Department clarified this in a press release that referred to the shipment as a “purchase.”
But while the two governments squabbled over who paid for what, there was a much bigger problem with the Russian ventilators. Not only were they incompatible with the voltage system in the U.S., but the Aventa-M had a serious defect.
Within about one week, Aventa-M ventilators had been found responsible for fires at two Russian hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg; six people were killed. Russian investigators blamed the ventilators’ faulty circuitry.
Ultimately the Aventa-M ventilators from Russia were never used by any American hospital, but in October it was finally discovered where those ventilators ended up – in the trash heap. This week, Christopher Miller, writing for Buzzfeed, revealed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disposed of the Aventa-M ventilators.
On October 21, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the fate of the Russian ventilators.
"If we remember the moment when this aid was sent, the moment was critical for all countries of the world, and it was critical for the United States,” he said according to the Russian state news outlet RIA Novosti.
“Therefore, Russia did everything in its power and in its technological and technical capabilities to send such assistance.”
This is misleading.
First, the material was paid for, and this is not mentioned in Peskov’s comments or anywhere else in the article. Moreover, while the article mentions the Aventa-M’s fire hazard, Peskov did not.
The Buzzfeed article also notes how in the months following the Russian delivery, the U.S. would send $5.6 million in coronavirus aid to Russia, more than five times the cost of the equipment delivered to the U.S. This also goes unmentioned by Peskov and RIA Novosti.