Politics Regional

Humanitarian aid during the pandemic. What goal does Russia pursue?

Consolidation of European countries is based on the respect for peace and security towards each Member State. In April Russia once again tried to achieve lifting of sanctions, imposed for military aggression on the territory of Ukraine and for annexation of Crimea, by impelling the United Nations General Assembly to approve particular resolution.The resolution was introduced following coronavirus pandemic, the financial crisis it caused, and was rejected as the previous one, put at the beginning of May.

While countries have been struggling with the pandemic, Russia has taken advantage of the crisis. A month ago, when Italy and other states hit by the virus the most tried to convince the European Commission in the necessity of corona bonds, Russia gave a helping hand and sent humanitarian aid to Italy. Later La Stampa published an article on the issue revealing the fact that the most part of the cargo was useless, and people who arrived on the board of Russian aircraft were not the healthcare workers, but representatives of military structures. Certainly, a purpose of their presence on the territory of foreign country rose concerns in world community.

And now Russia is expecting appropriate actions in a response to humanitarian gesture. Recently the president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate of Italy Vito Petrochelli received a letter from Leonid Slutsky, a chairman of Russian Committee on International Affairs of the State Duma, with a request to call the leadership of the European Union, as well the United States, Great Britain and powerful international organizations for lifting sanctions from Russia. In the face of worldwide epidemic threat, sanctions “put ordinary people on the brink of survival,” said Leonid Slutsky. Talking about “inhumane” sanctions in a time of crisis, the politician mentioned that nevertheless Russian Peace Foundation will continue to help other countries in combating the virus, “by all means”. A strong statement that creates an impression that Russia is the only country involved in this fight. Moreover, it implies at some kind of sacrifice that Russia makes from time to time in favor of affected countries. The statement aimed to remind Italy about Russian participation, and, with a help of manipulation, achieve lifting of sanctions.

The United States received from Russia personal protective equipment and ventilators. Russian mass media emphasized on the importance of support and consolidation during the crisis, special attention was paid to the promptness of Russian help. However, the statements they made tolerated particular inaccuracies. In a press release of the US Department of State it was mentioned that all necessary equipment, provided by Russia, was precisely purchased, but not given for free! Later it turned out that Russian ventilators, for patients in critical condition,were faulty: it was reported that five patients died in Russian hospital in St Petersburg because of fire that could have been caused by such ventilator. American hospitals kept the equipment in reserve just in case of critical need – now ventilators are returned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Not only ventilators, but Russian protective masks do not satisfy the requirements to be used in healthcare system.

The aim is to create suitable picture in order to gain the support of majority. And while Russia delivers tonnes of humanitarian aid abroad, medical workers in country complain they are forced to treat patients even without being protected properly. In this regard, the statement made by Leonid Slutsky claiming that sanctions are the reason of poor conditions, sounds false.

To achieve lifting of sanctions, Russia gained the support of German politicians from AfD. Recently Robby Schlund, in his interview to Russian media resource Sputnik, claimed that during the pandemic Russia demonstrated good crisis response, solidarity and cooperation with international community. Sanctions against Russia should be lifted immediately, concluded the politician.

Paying much attention to Russian humanitarian aid – which, as the experience of America and Italy has shown, is a dubious one – world community faces high risk of forgetting about the reason of why these sanctions were actually imposed. Russian military forces remain on the territory of Crimea peninsula and Eastern part of Ukraine. There is no relation between humanitarian aid, provided in a response to coronavirus outbreak, and the occupation of the territory of sovereign state. Despite Russia’s participation in the crisis response, nothing was done to resolve military conflict.

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