Embassy comment regarding Russian humanitarian aid to combat Covid-19

British media continue publications seeking to find discrepancies and hidden agenda of Russian humanitarian assistance rendered to the United States and Italy in order to help them combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In today’s piece, BBC has published results of an investigation aimed at verifying the sincerity of gratitude (an important task indeed) expressed by Americans and Italians towards Russia. The journalists have been able to establish that Russian media reports on Russian flags being flown and Russian anthem being sung in Italy are misleading – the respective reports have only shown one proven instance of demonstration of the flag, while the anthem was played rather than sung. On top of this, BBC is again referring to La Stampa’s speculations claiming that 80 per cent of the Russian aid has been useless.

We cannot but admit that BBC has performed an important and, one would suppose, necessary investigative work. There are, however, certain minor elements that the independent and impartial journalists have overlooked.

Russian aid to Italy is being rendered upon request by Prime Minister Conte expressed to President Putin when they spoke on 21 March. 15 planeloads of aid have been delivered to Italy by Russian Defence Ministry aircraft, each carrying about 60 tons of cargo. The Russian assistance team consists of 122 experts, including 66 servicemen of the radiological, chemical and biological defence troops, as well as 8 teams of doctors, each comprising a physician, an epidemiologist, an anesthesiologist, a nurse and an interpreter. We have provided Italy with one (out of the Russian army’s total of 15) cutting-edge laboratory, 13 disinfection machines and tons of equipment including lung ventilators, biological and patogent test machines, 100 thousand test kits, high-quality masks and gloves, 1000 individual protection kits, 700 kits for doctors working with infectious diseases, etc.

One example of specific Russian assistance to the epidemic-stricken Italy is the participation of Russian teams in the ongoing efforts to disinfect 65 nursing homes for the elderly. By 1 April, this work had already been finished at 17 sites. It is being done using Russian equipment and materials. Apart from that, Russian epidemiologists provide advice to local staff so as to ensure a sustained anti-epidemic regime at those facilities.

We would like to stress that this help is free of charge and humanitarian by nature. It is a sign of our solidarity with the Italian people, not linked to any political agenda.

The same is true for the United States. The arrangement for Russian humanitarian assistance was reached during the telephone conversation between the two Presidents on 30 March. A Defence Ministry plane was urgently dispatched to deliver aid to the US. Half of the cargo was paid for by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, while the other half was covered by the US government. This hardly makes it less humanitarian.

Russian assistance is an example of civilised humanitarian cooperation and mutual help, the best manifestation of the universal values that humaniy has been accumulating for centuries. One would hope that freedom of expression and the media, another important achievement of modern civilisation, should be used in order to disseminate true information in good faith. This is what the public needs in the current difficult environment. We wish BBC and other British journalists success in this work.

3 April 2020, 18:05