In just 24 hours, Russia sent unprecedented humanitarian aid to Italy, which in its official press reports tactfully called “an operational group of military doctors, specialists in the field of virology and epidemiology, with modern equipment for diagnosis and disinfection.”
The wording, which does not mention the belonging of the Russians to the Armed Forces, was chosen from diplomatic considerations.
After all, a convoy of Russian troops in full view of Europe is moving through a country that is a member of NATO.
“In fact, Italians were dumbfounded by the speed of our group, they simply were not ready to take our planes in such numbers,” the Russian military told KP. “Their capabilities made it possible to land one aircraft every two hours.” After the fourth, they prayed: “Take a break…”
Many stood busy and waited for their team. However, some units made a 450-kilometer march to the airfield.
And then from Rome there was still a column to go 600 kilometers to Bergamo. Why didn’t they put the Russians closer?”
“Just for our big company they decided to allocate the largest airbase. They did not know our capabilities. After the first meeting, at which we informed them that we are able to – the equipment that arrived there is ready to process up to 20 thousand square meters or 360 cars per hour – they were impressed. And they determined the city of Bergamo for us, which must be completely disinfected. At the same time, they thanked us very much. They do not have technology or technique of such a level.”
Moscow sent 20 such special vehicles to Italy, while in Russia there are over 2,000 of them.
Among the equipment is a laboratory capable of doing up to 100 tests for coronavirus per hour. Russia has 14 more such mobile laboratories.
On the way to Bergamo, the convoy stopped for refueling in Florence.
“Of course, it’s unusual to travel abroad,” admitted one of the drivers, Senior Sergeant Alexander Matryukhin. “But we are ready to perform any task.”
“There were no breakdowns. The roads are empty, it’s clear that it is quarantine,” said Colonel Igor Bogomolov, head of the Research Center.
“But those rare cars that meet greet us and give signals. It was nice.”
From a historical viewpoint, there is a precedent. In Sicily, in the city of Messina, there is a monument to Russian sailors, who in 1908 were the first to help the inhabitants of this city, destroyed by a terrible earthquake.
For several days the sailors raked the rubble, pulling the Italians buried under the ruins, evacuated women and children to their ships, deployed field kitchens. As a result of repeated earthquakes, Russian sailors suffered losses, but continued to save people.
“In the history of Messina, there were thousands of pages of human kindness and generosity,” Italian journalist Matilda Serao wrote. “But they entered the most eternal and most imperishable page in this story – fair-haired Slavs, so restrained in appearance and so responsive in business…”
“No haggling” – Putin’s choice and good intentions are taken care of by the ambassador of the Russian Federation in Italy, Sergey Razov.
“Our free aid provided to Italy in a difficult situation – he says – is not the subject of haggling, payment of bills and so on” and is not linked to international sanctions.
In an interview, the diplomat said that “Russia has sent substantial aid to Italy: over 120 doctors, equipment and pharmaceutical products. Supplies are organized by the Ministry of Defense. It was decided that at this stage , the Russian specialists will be sent to one of the most affected cities in northern Italy: Bergamo.
The aim of the Russian medical team is to work concretely alongside Italian colleagues. Our specialists will remain in Italy until a specific decision joint of the Russian and Italian sides”.
Of course, there are also negative voices, Italian daily La Stampa, citing high-level political sources said the Russian supplies consist only… of disinfection equipment, a field laboratory for sterilization and chemical prevention, and other similar tools.
La Stampa’s sources claimed that Putin is pursuing geopolitical and diplomatic opportunities with the aid package dubbed “From Russia With Love,” while Conte accepted the aid in order to secure a good personal relationship with Moscow.
Russia’s Ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov dismissed La Stampa’s report as “perverse.”
“Such assertions are the product of a perverse mind. A selfless desire to help a friendly people in trouble is seen as insidious,” Razov told Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency.