In a telephone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured the Indian leader that Moscow is committed to helping the country as it reels from a second COVID wave.
India on Wednesday received its first shipment of COVID-related relief from Russia, with more than 20 tonnes of material including oxygen concentrators and the “Coronavir” drug, which is being used as a substitute for Remdesivir in the Asian country.
“Two urgent flights operated by the Russian EMERCOM arrived here today, which brought a cargo with a total weight of 22 tonnes. These are oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, bedside monitors, medicines, including Coronavir, and other essential pharmaceutical items,” a press release by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in New Delhi said on Wednesday evening.
The Russian aid package comprises 20 oxygen production units, 75 ventilators, 150 medical monitors, and 200,000 packs of medicine, according to a statement by the Kremlin.
India, which has been recording over 300,000 new infections daily for a week now, is experiencing a crippling shortage of both medical oxygen as well Remdesivir, a US-licenced drug being extensively administered to cure COVID symptoms in patients in India. The drug is going for ten times its normal price in the country at the moment, mostly on the black market.
According to reports in Indian media, Moscow’s initial plan to supply New Delhi with 300,000-400,000 injections of Remdesivir was vetoed by the US, which threatened penalties against both the nations should it happen. Gilead Sciences, the American pharmaceutical firm which owns licensing rights over Remdesivir, doesn’t have a non-license voluntary agreement with any Russian company at present.
The press statement by the Russian embassy recalled that New Delhi had also helped Moscow with supplies of the hydroxychloroquine drug during the first COVID wave last year.
“India approved emergency supplies of hydroxychloroquine to Russia as a gesture of goodwill, when the pandemic unfolded last year. We appreciate and remember it,” it noted.
“This is the only way we can defeat the coronavirus – by uniting our endeavours and supporting each other in difficult times,” added the embassy readout.
Calling the “joint fight” against coronavirus as the most important area of bilateral cooperation at present, the Russian statement noted that the first deliveries of the Sputnik V vaccine will also be delivered to India from next month.
“It also includes the forthcoming deliveries of Sputnik V starting from May 2021 and the subsequent facilitation of its production in India, cooperation in the field of medical science, including with regard to new coronavirus strains,” said the Russian mission.
The Russian embassy statement on Wednesday was published several hours after a telephone conversation between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin. The Indian PM expressed his gratitude to Putin in a series of tweets for sending the relief, which Modi described as being “high-tech” and “in great demand in the country.”
Russia, which has traditionally enjoyed close ties with India, has expressed concern over the sharp spike in cases amid in the ongoing second COVID wave. The surge in infections means India now boasts the grim record of having the second most COVID caseload globally, with only the US faring worse.
India’s federal Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 3,293 deaths, the worst to date for any country since the pandemic began last year.
“Russia is closely watching the situation in India, which is becoming more and more alarming with unprecedented spread of the coronavirus infection. We sincerely empathise with the Indian people due to our traditionally warm and friendly relations,” Russia’s Ambassador to New Delhi Nikolay Kudashev said on Wednesday.
Over the last few days, relief for India has been flown in from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, United Kingdom, the US, and Saudi Arabia, among other nations.