The next, the fourteenth in a row, IL-76 military transport aircraft of the Russian Air Force with a group of Russian military specialists and equipment for diagnosing and carrying out disinfection measures landed at the airfield of the Italian air force Pratica di Mare (30 kilometers southwest of the city Rome),” the Defense Ministry said.
According to a statement by the chief of the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops of the Russian Armed Forces Major General Igor Kirilov:
“If we take the numbers, we sent one laboratory out of 15 laboratories existing in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops. Twenty machines for special processing out of 2065 and 66 people out of about 20 thousand military personnel of the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection Troops,” stated Kirillov.
“Therefore, this will not affect the combat readiness and the ability of troops to carry out tasks”
This is information as of the morning of March 23rd, hours after the first deployment took place. In total, 9 IL-76 had landed when the Major General made the statement.
It would appear that the Russian experts deemed the situation severe and requested more backup.
In total, estimations of the capacity of flights and based on footage, a total of approximately 500 Russian military doctors, virologists and so on were sent, alongside likely upwards of 50 pieces of various equipment.
Naturally, MSM immediately claimed that the aid provided by Russia is just an attempt to get into Italy’s favor and to exploit the EU’s current weakness.
“In a world where egotism is a knee-jerk reaction to Covid-19, those who practise solidarity can earn a reputation,” said Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “China understood it first, by sending aid and specialists to Italy, Africa and elsewhere. Now Russia is following in its footsteps.”
“In the fight against coronavirus, international interaction is very important,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on March 23rd. “No country can actually defeat such a pandemic and deal with it alone . . . we are all in the same boat, and everyone must answer this challenge together.”
Peskov also said that the Russian aid to Italy could benefit both countries.
“I think that one of the reasons that the Russians are going there in such numbers is that they are probably four weeks behind Italy, so what they will do is not just help [the Italians] but also learn how the situation is on the spot. So it helps both sides,” he said.
The Kremlim spokesperson also said that it was “absurd” to suggest that the Italian shipment, which officials have said is purely humanitarian and designed as a one-off measure, had been offered in exchange for Rome’s support for the future lifting of EU sanctions against Moscow, which were imposed after the invasion and annexation of Crimea.
“No, it’s absolutely not connected . . . there can be no question of any conditions or calculations, or hopes,” Peskov said. “Italy really needs more help on a larger scale, and what the Russian Federation is doing is assisting where it is feasible.”
Meanwhile, on March 23rd and 22nd, Italy reported a lower number of detected cases and deaths, compared to the report on March 21st, which saw a spike of above 700 deaths.
Currently, Italy sits at 63,927 total cases, 50,418 active ones. The number of recovered sits at 7,432 and the fatalities sit at 6,077.
Italy regarded the Russian deployment positively, with Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio being present to welcome the aid.
Meanwhile, Italian media reported that Italy had requested military aid in the fight against coronavirus to US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Aside from a few solidarity tweets, the US has rather hoarded laboratory test kits in Italy. The news had caused a sensation in recent days: half a million swabs were bought from a manufacturing company in the North and loaded onto a large military plane which then left from Aviano.
And Ambassador Lewis Eisenberg had thanked the company from Brescia with an official note, ensuring that it continued “to produce swabs for tests in sufficient quantities to meet the requests in Italy and abroad”.
But something does appear to be happening. In Aviano American soldiers received a small field hospital on March 22nd: a 10-seater mobile stabilization unit, transferred to Italy from the gigantic US base located in Ramstein, Germany.
“We are in close contact with our Italian friends, with the State Department and with the European Command of the United States,” announced General Jeff Harrigian.
But it appears to be too little, too late, as Washington, once again, appears to be proving that all its allies are expendable when it comes to protecting its own interest.