8 May 2020 15:56

First plane with Russian military specialists who helped fight Covid-19 leaves Italy - Russian Defense Ministry

MOSCOW. May 8 (Interfax) - The first group of Russian military specialists who helped Italy counter the spread of coronavirus has left for Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

"The first [Ilyushin] Il-76 plane of the Russian Aerospace Forces carrying servicemen and special-purpose hardware from the Russian Defense Ministry's combined unit that was helping to counter the spread of the coronavirus infection in the Italian Republic has taken off from the Villafranca airfield (Verona, Italy) and is en route to the Russian Federation," the Defense Ministry said.

According to earlier reports, two planes will airlift 20 Russian military specialists and four pieces of special-purpose hardware back to Russia from Italy on May 8.

It was reported earlier that the Russian military specialists are starting to leave Italy, where they have been helping counter the spread of Covid-19 since the end of March.

Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini thanked Russia for its assistance in fighting Covid-19 in a telephone call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Thursday. Italy, in turn, is also ready to help Russia, Guerini said.

It was officially reported that Russia planned to begin withdrawing its military specialists from Italy on May 7.

Interfax reported that Russian Defense Ministry planes airlifted eight medical brigades, around 100 military virologists and epidemiologists, diagnostic and disinfection equipment, and one of the Russian Radiation, Biological, and Chemical Protection Troops' 15 laboratories to Italy in March.

The Russian military specialists disinfected and sanitized healthcare establishments in nearly 100 localities of Italy's Lombardy region. They disinfected more than 100 buildings, more than one million square meters of indoor premises, and over 400,000 square meters of hard-surface roads.

Russian military doctors also helped treat Covid-19 patients in a field hospital in Bergamo, the Defense Ministry said.

By sending military specialists to Italy to help counter the spread of Covid-19, Russia was not seeking to sow discord within NATO and the European Union, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said last Saturday.

"When we extend assistance to someone, to some country, to some people, we don't have any hidden goals in our pocket, somewhere behind the scenes to sow discord or cause a collapse of unity," Fomin said in an interview with the Russian Defense Ministry's Zvezda television channel.