Russia has sent two plane loads of humanitarian aid to Cuba, with the country facing a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, and an ongoing US economic embargo.
The Russian government announced on Saturday it had sent two AN-124 ‘Ruslan’ aircraft from the Russian Defence Ministry on Saturday, to Cuba, on the orders of president Vladimir Putin.
"The planes will deliver food, personal protective equipment and more than a million medical masks to Cuba. In total, more than 88 tonnes," the defence ministry said in a statement.
The island of 11 million inhabitants is currently experiencing a worrying increase in the number of infections and deaths due to COVID-19: 316,383 and 2,203 respectively since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures from Friday.
The situation is compounded by economic difficulties caused by the historic US embargo.
Washington also imposed symbolic financial sanctions on the Cuban defence minister on Thursday.
The United States explained the sanctions by the "repression" of recent "peaceful and pro-democracy demonstrations" in Cuba, and threatened the island's communist authorities with further punitive measures.
Cries of "we are hungry" and "down with the dictatorship" led to demonstrations in Cuba on 11 July, which continued sporadically the following day.
At the end of these rallies, which left one person dead and dozens injured, around a hundred people were arrested, according to various opposition organisations.