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.


Greece thanks France for pledge to boost forces in east Med

Updated 13 August 2020

Greece thanks France for pledge to boost forces in east Med

  • Macron announced a temporary reinforcement of French military in Eastern Mediterranean
  • Mitsotakis warned of the “risk of an accident” in the contained area where the Greek and Turkish warships are gathered

ATHENS, Greece: Greece’s prime minister warmly thanked France Thursday for its pledge to boost its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean, where Greek and Turkish warships are closely shadowing each other over a Turkish energy exploration bid in waters Athens claims as its own.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted that French President Emmanuel Macron is “a true friend of Greece and also a fervent protector of European values and international law.”
Macron announced following a phone call with Mitsotakis late Wednesday that he has decided to “temporarily reinforce the French military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming days, in cooperation with European partners including Greece.”
Greece’s NATO and European Union ally France is the EU’s biggest military power. Complicating matters, Turkey — Greece’s historic regional rival — is also a NATO member but has poor relations with France.
The mounting tension follows Turkey’s move Monday to send a seismic research vessel, escorted by warships, into waters between the Greek island of Crete and Cyprus to prospect for potential offshore gas and oil reserves, following similar discoveries in other parts of the region.
Greece claims part of the area is over its own continental shelf and has demanded that the Turkish ships withdraw. Turkey counters that it’s entitled to conduct research in the area. Greece placed its military on alert, and sent warships to the area off Turkey’s southern coast.
In a televised statement Wednesday, Mitsotakis warned of the “risk of an accident” in the contained area where the Greek and Turkish warships are gathered.
“In such a case, responsibility lies upon the one who gives rise to these circumstances,” he said. He added that Greece is not averse to “even the toughest dialogue,” but that “dialogue becomes irrelevant in a climate of tension and provocation.”
“We will never be the ones to escalate the situation. Yet, self-restraint is only one aspect of our power,” Mitsotakis said. “No provocation will ... go unanswered.”
On Thursday, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias traveled to Israel for talks on the matter.