The Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin seizes the chance that the coronavirus offers him. In late March, he sent a military detachment to Italy to help tackle the epidemic. The good 100 specialists for assignments in contaminated zones brought equipment, especially 150 ventilators and chemicals. The Russians were very welcome in Italy because health care in Lombardy is close to collapse. For Putin, Italy is a “soft” destination within NATO – one remembers the trip to Moscow by Italian right-wing populist and opposition leader Matteo Salvini.
Russian vans landed at an Italian military airfield near Rome around March 23, and Russian trucks then drove north on the empty highway with their flags waving. Such messages and pictures reached the public under the title: “”From Russia with Love””. The propaganda coup succeeded: Russia helps, together with China, Europe helps little – that is the prevailing perception in the Italian Media.
According to government reports, 104 Russians are in Rome Bergamo in use. This is where coronavirus infections are most common, and the local hospital is overstretched. 51 specialists for decontamination immediately got down to work, including cleaning Retirement homes. Thirty-five doctors and nurses were first introduced to Italian safety protocols in courses, and on April 9 they started working in the emergency hospital financed and built by local entrepreneurs. With the support of translators, they run their Russian-speaking hospital ward. They immediately reported success: four patients were healed.
The Russian military is probably not exclusively pursuing humanitarian purposes in Italy. Here they can penetrate the structure of the western alliance at a weak point. They can expand their knowledge of the coronavirus, which should also benefit them at home. You can see up close how a western society reacts when faced with an aggressive virus. They can also interfere politically. The Russian mission is under the command of Major General Sergei Kikot. He denied the use of chemical weapons by the Asad regime in Syria last year, contrary to what the organization found to be a chemical weapons ban.
Military engagement in Italy was proudly reported in Russia. The images on television sparked a certain malicious joy at how Russian convoys drove through a NATO country with Russian flags and how Russian flags were raised at the improvised bases of the units. The rest of the world is watching Italy perish, but Russia shows solidarity and help, the message said.
The Turin newspaper “La Stampa” criticized the action of the Russians as an intelligence operation, more dangerous than useful for Italy, especially since the Russian material was largely unusable. That carried her one Letter to the editor of the Russian ambassador and to reprimand by the spokesman for the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministry. Rome owed Russian aid again and recalled the one in Italy Freedom of the press. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte rejected any suspicions of Russia. Such insinuations are an insult to him and Putin.
The Russian Foreign Minister has the last word, Sergei Lavrov. Some people have almost turned the Russian engagement in Italy into a military invasion on the territory of NATO and the EU. But Conte asked Putin for help. Moscow did not intend, according to Lavrov to journalists, to demand the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the EU in 2014 due to the Russian attack on Ukraine because of the coronavirus emergency.