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Was scrapped: why the United States refused to use ventilators from Russia

The United States Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has decided to dispose of ventilators received from Russia. The Aventa-M devices, delivered as humanitarian aid back in early April 2020, were never used in American hospitals due to doubts about their safety, writes Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

As the BBC Russian Service found out, 45 ventilators brought from Russia to the United States in early April of this year were destroyed only four months later. The American edition of BuzzFeed was the first to report on the disposal of the Russian humanitarian cargo, although neither this nor subsequent publications of the American and Russian media reported how long this equipment lay in warehouses in the United States and when it was decided to get rid of it.

The US Emergency Management Agency confirmed to the BBC Russian Service that "technical questions" to Russian instruments arose in the spring of this year - less than a month after the humanitarian aid arrived in the United States.

“The ventilators were transported to warehouses in the states of New York and New Jersey and ... then they were in reserve in case the situation with the coronavirus in these states worsened. Due to the fact that the number of infections decreased, the ventilators were not transferred to the hospitals - their state authorities returned to FEMA, ”a spokeswoman for the American department Janet Montesi explained to the BBC Russian Service.

Answering a question from the BBC Russian Service, the agency clarified that the supplied devices were never approved for use in the United States.

In the spring of this year, FEMA representatives told the BBC Russian Service that the Russian equipment was not prepared to work on American power grids and did not support 110 volts.

Now the agency, answering the same question from the Russian Service, said that in fact the supplied equipment was designed to work with alternating voltage in power grids and with a voltage of 220 volts (RF standard), and 110 volts (the standard adopted in USA).

“The equipment delivered in the fight against COVID-19 ... needs to be tested and approved for use,” said Janet Montesi. - All ventilators manufactured in the United States or outside the country must obtain a 501 (k) authorization or, in a pandemic, an emergency authorization (EUA) to pass them on to users in the United States. Models of ventilators received as part of this cargo did not have such permits ”.

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Not exactly humanitarian cargo

An An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces landed at the New York airport in the afternoon of April 1. On board were over 60 tons of cargo, which the Kremlin called "humanitarian aid."

The very next day, President Trump announced that the delivery of the cargo was a Russian initiative, and the American side immediately agreed to the proposal from Moscow.

“It was a very nice gesture from President Putin and I could say 'No, thank you' or I could say 'Thank you', but it was a large plane of very high quality medical supplies, and I said, 'I will accept it.' - said the US President answering questions from journalists on April 2.

According to the press secretary of the Russian President Dmitry Peskov, the agreement on the dispatch of the humanitarian cargo was reached during a telephone conversation between the leaders of the two states at the end of March 2020.

“Against the backdrop of a difficult epidemiological situation in America, assistance was offered in the form of medical equipment and protective equipment,” he stressed.

A day later, it turned out that the aid was "humanitarian" only partially. State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus, on her Twitter account, found it necessary to clarify that in fact, "the United States agreed to purchase the necessary medical equipment from Russia, including ventilators and personal protective equipment."

After that, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that only half of the "humanitarian cargo" was paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), and the rest of the American side must pay "independently."

"The State Department received a final bill issued by the Russian government for $ 659," the US Emergency Management Agency told the BBC's Russian Service this spring.

What Ruslan delivered

According to the inventory of humanitarian cargo provided to ABC television by the American Emergency Management Agency, on board the Russian transporter there were 4 industrial gas masks M-95, completely covering the face, 15 respirators, 80 packages of antiseptic, 400 various items of medical clothing, including protective overalls , and 30 thousand rubber gloves. Among them, however, there were both surgical and household ones used in the kitchen.

The agency then emphasized that the industrial gas masks M-95, sent by the Russian side, “meet the requirements of the military for protection from chemical and biological threats,” but are not used in medical institutions.

In addition, 45 Aventa-M lung ventilators were delivered to the United States, which caused the current scandal.

In the United States, the delivered cargo was then called "another Kremlin propaganda trap."

The reason was the organizations that collected humanitarian aid. At least two Russian structures involved in the shipment of the cargo ended up on the US sanctions list.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund was included in the list of US sectoral sanctions in July 2014 in connection with the events in Ukraine. Not long before that, sanctions were also imposed on the Radioelectronic Technologies Concern (KRET), one of whose divisions - the Ural Instrument-Making Plant - is the manufacturer of the same Aventa-M artificial lung ventilation devices included in the “humanitarian delivery”.

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Sanctioned cargo?

Moreover, in the spring of this year, several American media outlets immediately reported that an agreement on the supply of Russian cargo was reached after personal negotiations between the son-in-law of the US President and, concurrently, his senior adviser Jared Kushner and the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund Kirill Dmitriev. Both have longstanding business relationships.

At the same time, according to the American media, the son-in-law of the President of the United States has organized a special team of recent graduates of American universities and Trump supporters, who were tasked with looking around the world for possible suppliers of protective equipment during the epidemic.

The US Emergency Management Agency's warehouses were empty, so recent students were tasked with calling possible manufacturers of masks, gloves and other medical supplies around the world using contacts provided by supporters of President Trump.

Some of these temporary employees later went to the US Congress to complain that, due to the decision of the president's son-in-law, they were forced to seek contracts for the supply of millions of pieces of protective equipment through advertisements on the Internet.

The American Emergency Management Agency, however, is now claiming that the activities of Kushner and the employees he hired had nothing to do with the decision to dispose of the Russian-supplied devices.

As the BBC Russian Service has already reported, in early May 2020, Aventa-M devices caught fire in two hospitals (in Moscow and St. Petersburg). The fires killed six people. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case and started checking these incidents.

Roszdravnadzor has introduced a temporary ban on the use of Aventa-M ventilators produced after April 1, 2020. In fact, the devices that the hospitals purchased could not be used in the midst of the pandemic, when they were especially needed. They were again allowed to be used only in July.

As it turned out, the American Agency for Emergency Situations also listened to the recommendations of Roszdravnazdor.

“In May, there were reports that the Aventa-M devices caused fires in Russia ... Due to concerns about the safety of COVID-19 patients, as well as medical workers and institutions, the ventilators that raised questions were disposed of in July this years in accordance with the instructions of the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ”, - told the BBC Russian Service, FEMA spokeswoman Janet Montesi.

The agency also clarified that later the Russian side withdrew its demand for payment for the delivered cargo.

“After delivery, it was established that the items received were a voluntary donation, so no one demanded payment from the United States for this,” Montesi explained.

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