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Russian military support ‘much needed’ in Italy's 'critical' battle against Covid-19 – Lombardy VP

Russian military support ‘much needed’ in Italy's 'critical' battle against Covid-19 – Lombardy VP
Russian help is “very much needed” in Italy’s ongoing battle against the Covid-19 virus, the VP of the Lombardy region Fabrizio Sala has said, as the country recorded its worst yet single-day spike in fatalities.

Sala said on Friday that the presence of Russia’s military in Italy proves that the pandemic has become “a problem for the whole world” and that its scale indicates that countries “need to combine our efforts” and work “side-by-side” to beat it, according to a statement released by Russia’s Defense Ministry.

A contingent of 100 Russian military personnel arrived in Italy at the weekend after Rome requested Moscow’s help in battling the outbreak. The Russian servicemen face a tough job as they assist Italy’s nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) defense forces in Bergamo, the epicenter of the country’s Covid-19 outbreak. 

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“A lot” needs to be done to get the outbreak under control, Italy’s NBC defense forces chief Dario de Masi said at a joint press conference in Lombardy, adding that the “situation is really critical.”

Masi said the cooperation with the Russian medics will be “mutually beneficial” and that “we’ll be able to help our country and learn from each other’s experience.” On Friday, the visiting medics carried out reconnaissance at health facilities in Bergamo and compiled a list of urgent measures to help contain the spread.

The Russian servicemen will first be providing assistance to 65 of Bergamo’s homes for the elderly, which are suffering from a lack of qualified personnel, according to the deputy head of Russia’s own NBC defense forces, Sergey Kikot. 

When a Russian field hospital is established in the city, the medics will then move their operations there, Kikot said.

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So far, eight Russian medical brigades have arrived in Italy, each consisting of a therapist, an anesthetist-resuscitator, an epidemiologist and a nurse as well as a military unit, equipped with high-performance disinfecting tools. The Russian military also brought in a mobile laboratory, which allows for swift diagnosis of the Covid-19 virus and other diseases.

Kikot also debunked some fake news which had circulated in Italian media suggesting that many of the Russian personnel in Italy were ill with “severe” cases of coronavirus. That is “not true” and the personnel are “healthy” and “ready to perform their tasks,” he said.

Russian Consul General to Milan Alexander Nurizade, who was also at the press conference, said that throughout history it has “always been” that Russia would come to Italy’s aid in a crisis.

“When trouble came to one house – a house in Italy or a house in Russia – friends always came to the rescue.”

Nurizade recalled the 1908 Messina earthquake when Russian sailors came to the aid of the city’s inhabitants. Likewise, Russia was there in 2009 after the devastating L’Aquila earthquake to help with rescue and restoration work, he said, adding that now “only by common efforts” can the Covid-19 battle be won.

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