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Ingratitude: Top Italian newspaper calls Russian Covid-19 aid 'useless', implies Putin using medical mission for military scouting

Graham Dockery
Graham Dockery
is an Irish journalist, commentator, and writer at RT. Previously based in Amsterdam, he wrote for DutchNews and a scatter of local and national newspapers.
is an Irish journalist, commentator, and writer at RT. Previously based in Amsterdam, he wrote for DutchNews and a scatter of local and national newspapers.
Ingratitude: Top Italian newspaper calls Russian Covid-19 aid 'useless', implies Putin using medical mission for military scouting
Italy’s Covid-19 death toll is the highest in the world. Yet a leading Italian newspaper has declared the Russian aid a pretext for Putin to send his military into NATO territory, calling it mostly “useless” against the pandemic.

The Covid-19 coronavirus has killed more than 7,500 Italians and infected ten times as many. Intensive-care units in the country are overrun, and the government in Rome has pleaded with foreign powers to provide aid. 

Moscow answered the call. Over the weekend, a fleet of nine Ilyushin IL-76 planes touched down at Pratica di Mare Air Base, 30km (18.6 miles) from Rome. One hundred military medics and disease specialists were on board, along with mobile laboratories, disinfection vehicles, test kits, and 600 ventilators, which Italian Ambassador Pasquale Terracciano described as “critically important at this stage of the epidemic.”

Also on rt.com Russian military medical convoy makes 600km march to the heart of Italy's Covid-19 outbreak (PHOTO, VIDEO)

For Italian newspaper La Stampa, these are “Russian soldiers free to roam Italy a few steps away from NATO”, and the whole aid package is implied to be a scouting mission to get boots on the ground on alliance territory.

In an article published on Wednesday, the paper declared that “Eighty percent of Russian supplies are totally useless or of little use to Italy.”

Of course, La Stampa attributed that quote to an anonymous political source, ripping a page straight out of the US media’s ‘Russiagate’ playbook.

RT

A Covid-19 patient gasping for air won’t care where the ventilator that saves his life came from. That’s for the learned intellectuals at papers like La Stampa to worry about. Their sources said that the aid comes with some strings attached, that Moscow is using it as a “pretext” to expand its influence in Italy, while Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte accepted it to strengthen his relationship with Moscow.

But why wouldn’t Conte accept the aid, even from a non-NATO power like Moscow? After all, when Italy appealed through the European Union’s Mechanism of Civil Protection for medical supplies earlier this month, not one single EU member state volunteered. France and Germany even slapped restrictions on the export of masks.

The EU left Italy “practically alone against the virus,” former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT.

With aid from traditional allies absent, it seems that La Stampa would rather Italians die in hospital corridors before they accept a helping hand from the great Satan to the east. 

Italy’s government has made no secret of its desire to normalize relations with Russia. A left-leaning newspaper, La Stampa has also made no secret of its disdain for that government, and its desire to oppose any rapprochement between Rome and Moscow. Even before the Russian aid package touched down, the Turin paper described its delivery as “Russia’s latest operation to influence Italy.” The article gave absolutely zero evidence of any influence operation or quid pro quo arrangement.

RT

Questioning the efficacy of any foreign aid shipment is the media’s job, and time will tell what impact the Russian airlift has on the rampaging coronavirus. However, insinuating without evidence that the relief effort is a trojan horse from Vladimir Putin is not journalism. It’s schoolyard gossip printed as fact.

When China sent its own aid shipment to Italy, La Stampa didn’t rave about a ‘Chinese influence operation’. The boxes came with a similar label affixed, declaring “The friendship road knows no borders,” yet La Stampa didn’t call their contents “useless.” Perhaps the paper stayed silent because the several hundred Chinese doctors weren’t wearing the uniform of Europe’s old Cold War enemy.

Or perhaps the paper held its tongue because its largest shareholder has business interests in China? We could claim that, but that wouldn’t be journalism. It would be a La Stampa-level rumor dressed up as fact.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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