Zarina Zabrisky reports on the repression of medics and suppression of factual reports from Russia despite its international PR exercises.
The United States has purchased a 60 tons planeload of ventilators, masks, and respirators from Moscow while Russian hospitals in the regions and residents around the country experience a deficit of protective gear and equipment needed to confront the Coronavirus pandemic.
“As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on 1 April in New York City,” the US Department of State explained in a press statement .
Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov referred to the supplies as “humanitarian aide” and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian state news agencies that the cost of the cargo was 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, added to U.S. sectoral sanctions in 2015.
Ironically, the US may have violated its own sanctions twice as the purchased protective gear is produced by a subsidiary of Russia’s KRET tech firm, a subsidiary of sanctioned conglomerate Rostec, according to The Moscow Times. The load was delivered to the US on April 1.
The Kremlin has been providing support to other countries during the pandemic. As reported by NRC in the Netherlands on 6 April, 2020, last week Moscow sent 87 military doctors to Serbia to help fight the coronavirus epidemic and Italy previously welcomed 600 respirators and a team of 100 Russian doctors.
Meanwhile, Russian regional hospitals are noticeably short of personal protective equipment, adequate medical equipment, and personnel and the citizens’ initiatives to mend the situation are brutally suppressed by the government.
Doctors and paramedics interviewed by The Insider on 4 April admitted that even ER doctors do not have a sufficient amount of protective masks and use traditional medical gowns instead of special disposable protective suits.
There is an extreme deficit of ventilators in the regions. In Ryazan, a local hospital administration advised doctors to sew their own masks at home. A medical supplies factory in town Kymry in Tverskaya region ships safety equipment and products, including masks, elsewhere: the local pharmacies do not sell protective masks and the hospital has limited supplies. Employees of the Pokrovskaya hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia, posted a video pleading for help, as reported by Fontanka.ru. The hospital admits all patients with pneumonia, including COVID-19 cases, but the medical personnel has no means of protection.
On 3 April, as reported by ROMB, members of the Russian humanitarian organization, the Alliance of Doctors, who raised money to purchase masks and special suits for regional doctors, were detained by police in the Novgorod region while transporting a batch of medical supplies (500 masks, 580 mouth masks, 10 infection suits, 20 goggles, 1,000 pairs of latex gloves and 300 bottles of disinfectant) to the local hospital. The head of the organization, Dr Anastasia Vasilyeva, was beaten, detained overnight and charged with police disobedience.
According to New York Times, Dr. Vasilieva previously said in a video released in March 2020 that “authorities were lying about the true number of infections, accusing them of deliberately misclassifying people who had developed the disease as victims of ordinary pneumonia.”
As Konstantin Salomatin, a Russian journalist and photographer reporting from the site told the Byline Times, the hospital chief surgeon who accepted the supplies from Vasilyeva was removed from work and put under compulsory two-week quarantine under the excuse of being in contact with a potentially contaminated Dutch journalist. According to Salomatin, after several Western publications covered the incident, Dr.Vasilieva became a target of an Internet troll attacks and a discrediting campaign.
The Kremlin is blaming the West for “sowing panic” in Russia. On March 4, 2020, Vladimir Putin said during his meeting with the government that “provocative fake news on coronavirus spread in Russia mostly comes from abroad, while in reality nothing critical is happening.”