On April 18, the Russian state-owned media outlet RT published a story headlined: “Wary of US? Peru keeps Covid-19 medical shipment route SECRET over CONFISCATION fears.”
The story reads: "Peru is being ‘cautious’ in not disclosing the flight path of a plane loaded with Covid-19 testing kits, its disease response chief has said, with the US accused of ‘confiscating’ supplies meant for other nations."
Both the headline and opening sentence are misleading.
The article quotes Pilar Mazzetti, who heads Peru’s COVID-19 pandemic response center, as saying: “Logically speaking, the plane’s flight path must exclude stops in any country that confiscates its cargo. Due to the security situation, it was not said where the flights with the testing kits are heading to. I think that the most cautious thing to do is not to mention it. Everyone feels desperate.”
The RT article acknowledges that Mazzetti did not name a specific country or specific incidents. What is more, she speaks of cargo potentially being confiscated by a country within its own territory, something the U.S. hasn’t been accused of.
The article cites two cases in which the U.S. purportedly diverted shipments of protective gear from other countries; neither involved “confiscating” anything.
U.S. officials have denied such diversions.
One accusation is that American buyers brought cash payments to China and paid a producer to send a planeload of masks to the U.S. instead of France.
The RT article also cites the accusation by Berlin Minister of the Interior Andreas Geisel that the U.S. “confiscated” a shipment of 200,000 masks in Bangkok. Geisel called it “an act of modern piracy.” The masks were for use by German police.
The RT article briefly notes that Geisel “clarified that supply chain issues were being ‘reviewed’ as the order was placed with a German firm.”
However, other reports said the U.S. embassy in Thailand had no knowledge of such a transaction. The manufacturer of the masks, 3M, released a statement denying they had been confiscated.
There have been other cases in which masks were seized en route to their destination.
The Guardian reported that a shipment of 100,000 masks bound for Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, was grabbed by authorities in the Czech Republic under questionable circumstances. (Czech authorities later compensated the Italians by sending 110,000 masks.)
Another shipment of masks destined for Germany disappeared in Kenya while en route. Those incidents, neither involving the United States, more closely match the scenario Mazzetti referred to in her statement.