India, which has difficulty feeding and caring for its own millions, Friday joined the growing list of nations sending relief aid to the Soviet Union.
The official Tass news agency said a special Indian Air Force flight carrying 24 tons of medicines and food landed at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Friday in what will be the first of a series of aid flights.In all, at least 24 nations, including Israel and Sri Lanka, have sent help to the Soviet Union in a relief effort that is snowballing.
"Everyday brings news of the arrival of aid supplies, and we decide in advance where they are needed most of all," Soviet Deputy Health Minister Alexander Tsarengorodtsev told Tass.
Although Moscow's mayor and deputy mayor and officials in other cities have said there is no danger of famine, the aid keeps arriving.
"The Soviet Union has received more than 17,000 tons of medicines, medical equipment and food," Tsarengorodtsev said.
In a separate relief effort, UNESCO has recently sent more than 30 tons of food, medicine, clothes, toys, footwear and schoolbooks for the young victims of the April 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, Tass said Friday.
The aid from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is intended for groups in Russia, the Ukraine and Byelorussia - all of which suffered in the fallout from the explosion at the Ukrainian power station.
Tass said the first Indian aid flight contained individually packed food such as rice, canned vegetables, milk powder and jam.
India's charge d'affaires Shri P.K. Budwar received the relief supplies and handed them over to the government's humanitarian aid commission. Tass said that India will send aircraft with relief supplies to different parts of the Soviet Union throughout January.
It also said that on Dec. 13 Indian Ambassador H.E. Gonsalves presented the chairman of the Supreme Soviet Anatoly Lukyanov with a check for an equivalent of $16 million toward purchasing medicines, medical equipments and assistance from India.
At the time, Gonsalves said that India will also provide 1 million tons of wheat to the Soviet Union on special terms and a grant of 20,000 tons of rice.
India itself is one of the world's major recipients of foreign aid, and has difficulty in managing to feed its own population of 833 million people.
Of late, the aid to the Soviet Union has become more of a gesture of support for Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms rather than emergency help that would stave off any looming famine.