A Russian Air Force cargo plane reportedly carrying medical supplies for coronavirus patients landed at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport just after 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Moscow seized the chance to publicize the rare instance of a Russian plane bringing humanitarian aid — ordered by the U.S. government — to a U.S. airport, flooding social media with pictures and video shortly after the plane’s arrival. State media even had a live video feed of forklifts carrying brown boxes off the plane.
“A propaganda bonanza as our own government shrinks from America’s leadership role in a global crisis,” Brett McGurk, former special envoy for the U.S. fight against ISIS, tweeted.
Nothing to see here. Just a Russian military aircraft landing at JFK with 60 tons of medical supplies to support America’s #COVID19 response. A propaganda bonanza as our own government shrinks from America’s leadership role in a global crisis. pic.twitter.com/8TKyFqym9E— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) April 1, 2020
Russian state media said the plane was carrying “60 tons of medical equipment, ventilators, masks & other protection gear.” The shipment to New York — the state with the most coronavirus cases — followed a Monday call between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in which “the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement issued Wednesday evening.
“We sincerely thank you for all of the assistance you’re bringing in,” a New York air traffic controller said shortly before the plane, an Antonov An-124 landed. “You’re welcome and thanks,” the pilot responded.
WOW: New York air traffic controller to Russian Air Force cargo plane: “We sincerely thank you for all of the assistance you’re bringing in.” The plane in on final approach landing on runway 31L at JFK momentarily pic.twitter.com/oFHJyOiaQL— Marcus Weisgerber (@MarcusReports) April 1, 2020
Russia has also sent aid to Italy, which has been ravaged by the coronavirus.
Typically, the only Russian military planes that fly into U.S. airspace are reconnaissance missions, which are allowed by the Open Skies Treaty. American military planes can fly similar missions over Russia. The Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the pact.
Russian military aircraft occasionally land at JFK when Putin or other top leaders fly into New York for meetings at the United Nations.
American and Canadian fighter jets intercepted Russian Tu-142 aircraft — submarine-hunting versions of the Soviet-era Bear bombers — off the coast of Alaska twice last month.