Russian plane heads to US with supplies for virus fight

A Russian An-72 transport plane prepares to take off at the Russian military base of Hmeimim, located south-east of the city of Latakia in Hmeimim, Latakia Governorate, Syria, on September 26, 2019. (File/AFP)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Russian plane heads to US with supplies for virus fight

  • Video released by the ministry showed the cargo plane loaded with boxes preparing to take off from a military air base near Moscow
  • Last month, Russia said it had sent nearly 1,000 coronavirus testing kits to ex-Soviet states and other countries

MOSCOW: A Russian military plane carrying medical equipment has departed for the United States, the defense ministry in Moscow said Wednesday, as the Kremlin flexes its soft power amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Antonov-124, “with medical masks and medical equipment on board,” left for the US overnight, a statement said, without providing further details.

Video released by the ministry showed the cargo plane loaded with boxes preparing to take off from a military air base near Moscow early Wednesday morning.

Contacted by AFP, the defense ministry refused to provide any further information on the delivery, which came after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with US counterpart Donald Trump on Monday.

Russia has previously sent medical supplies and experts to coronavirus-hit Italy as part of a humanitarian effort that analysts said carried geopolitical overtones.
Moscow said the aid for Italy included some 100 virus specialists with experience dealing with Ebola and swine fever, but Italian media have reported that much of the aid was not useful in the fight against the virus.

Last month, Russia said it had sent nearly 1,000 coronavirus testing kits to ex-Soviet states and countries including Iran and North Korea.

The US now has 188,663 confirmed coronavirus cases, by far the highest of any country, according to a Johns Hopkins tally, and more than 4,000 deaths.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Putin expected the US to return the gesture if Russia faces a similar crisis and US producers have increased their capacity to produce medical supplies.

“Today, when the situation touches absolutely everyone and is of a global nature, there is no alternative to acting together in the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance,” he said.

Trump said earlier this week that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.”

Health officials in Russia have registered a sharp increase in the number of infections, with 2,337 cases and 17 deaths confirmed, according to the latest figures Wednesday.


Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

Updated 17 min 4 sec ago

Ethiopia says suspects confessed to killing popular singer

  • Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018
  • Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s attorney general said Friday that two men had confessed to killing a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group as part of a plot to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.
Hachala Hundessa became a symbol of the Oromo struggle during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
His shooting death last week sparked days of protests and ethnic violence that killed 239 people, according to police figures.
“The assassination was intended to be a cover to take power from the incumbent by force,” attorney general Abebech Abbebe said in a statement Friday aired on state television, without providing details.
Though Abiy is Ethiopia’s first Oromo head of state, Oromo nationalists accuse him of insufficiently championing their interests since taking office, a complaint echoed by many protesters last week.
Abebech said that along with the two men who have allegedly confessed to the crime, the government has identified a third suspect who remains on the run.
One of the men in custody identified the masterminds of the alleged plot as members of a rebel group the government believes is affiliated with the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) political party, Abebech said.
The OLF, a former rebel movement, returned to Ethiopia from exile after Abiy took office and has repeatedly disavowed any links to armed insurgents.
The Internet remained shut off Friday for an 11th consecutive day, though Addis Ababa remains calm and Abiy’s office issued a statement saying the surrounding Oromia region had “returned to calm and citizens have resumed normal activities.”
In her statement, however, Abebech said unnamed agitators were calling for additional protests and road blockages in the coming days.
“There are those that have hidden themselves in nice places but are calling on Ethiopian youth to fight each other, close roads and to cease working as part of a rebellion call,” Abebech said.
“Above all we call on our people to disobey this rebellion call and to thwart it.”