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U.S. reportedly violated its own anti-Russian sanctions by purchasing coronavirus medical aid

Source: RBC

Some of the medical equipment delivered from Russia to the United States to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic was produced by a company subject to strict American sanctions, RBC reported.

The equipment arrived at New York’s JFK airport in a military plane on April 1. Photos and videos of the plane being loaded were published by Ruptly, the multimedia arm of the Russian state outlet RT. Aventa M ventilators are clearly visible in the images. They are produced by the Ural Instrument Production Factory, a subsidiary of the Radioelectric Technologies Trust (KRET), itself controlled by the state corporation Rostec.

Since 2014, KRET has been blocked under the U.S. sanctions introduced following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. According to Brian O’Toole, former Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the U.S. Treasury Department, this means the U.S. violated its own anti-Russian sanctions if it purchased equipment from KRET, RBC reported.

Company representatives told RBC that they sell ventilators only to the Russian government. They added, “The provision of aid on intergovernmental lines is a prerogative of the president and the executive cabinet.”

Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said half of the COVID-19 aid to the United States was paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RFPI), which also falls under U.S. sanctions. O’Toole told RBC that the Fund is only barred from long-term financing in the United States and does have the right to deliver goods on a short-term basis. Nonetheless, the former sanctions official clarified, accepting sanctioned goods still constitutes a violation on the part of the U.S. because even if the RFPI paid for them, the government still acted to evade its own policy.

To further complicate matters, a senior Trump administration official told Reuters on April 2 that the U.S. paid for the aid shipment in full, though officials “appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.” The administration source requested anonymity, and the State Department did not provide any more information to Reuters.