The Russian army on Sunday (22 March) began flying medical help to Italy to help it battle the new coronavirus after receiving an order from President Vladimir Putin, a goodwill gesture that Moscow labelled "From Russia with Love".
Giant Il-76 military planes began taking off from an airbase in the Moscow region after Putin spoke to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday and agreements were later reached between respective defence ministers.
The Kremlin said Putin had expressed his support for Italy's leaders and people in the extremely difficult situation they were facing and had heeded an Italian request for help.
"Giuseppe Conte expressed his sincere gratitude for the steps Russia is taking to support Italy at such a tough time for it.", the Kremlin said.
The Kremlin said Russia was sending truck-based units capable of disinfecting vehicles, buildings and public spaces, as well as medical specialists and equipment, including testing devices, to the worst-hit Italian regions.
The team included some of Russia's leading medical military specialists, who had first-hand experience of fighting outbreaks of African swine fever and anthrax and of developing vaccines against Ebola, it said.
The Defence Ministry said its help, being sent on nine military transport planes, would consist of eight medical brigades plus around 100 other personnel, including the epidemiological and virus experts.