Russia is flying eight mobile teams of military virologists and doctors to Italy today to help tackle the deadly coronavirus crisis.
Italian premier Giuseppe Conte accepted Vladimir Putin’s offer of armed forces personnel, vehicles and equipment.
Russia will also send about 100 military specialists in virology and epidemics, the Interfax news agency cited the defence ministry as saying.
It comes as the death toll in Italy from the contagion sweeping the globe rose by 793 to 4,825 yesterday and the Italian government imposed more stringent lockdown measures.
The Lombardy region, which has been hardest-hit area in Italy, imposed even tougher lockdown measures as deaths continued to soar.
Putin spoke to Conte on Saturday, the Kremlin said, adding that the Russian leader had offered his support and help in the form of mobile disinfection vehicles and specialists to aid the worst hit Italian regions.
The Russian Defence Ministry said that military transport planes would deliver eight mobile brigades of military medics, special disinfection vehicles and other medical equipment to Italy from Sunday.
The Lombardy region has introduced stricter restrictions, banning all exercise, even solitary sport, as use of all vending machines was also prohibited.
Construction sites have also been shut down and markets closed. All factories not producing essential goods have also been shuttered.
In Italy all retailers, except pharmacies, food shops, post offices and banks were closed weeks ago as a drastic lockdown was imposed.
Lombardy is the worst-affected region in the country with 3,095 deaths and the northern region has been under a lockdown since March 8.
Communist-run Cuba has also dispatched a brigade of doctors and nurses to Italy for the first time this weekend at the request of the worst-affected region Lombardy.
The 52-strong brigade is the first time Cuba has sent an emergency contingent to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries, demonstrating the reach of its medical diplomacy.
Leonardo Fernandez, 68, an intensive care specialist, said on Saturday shortly before his brigade’s departure, said: ‘We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side.
‘He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheros, we are revolutionary doctors.’
Fernandez said this would be his eighth international mission, including one in Liberia during the fight against ebola.
Cuba has one of the highest ratios worldwide of physicians per capita even when excluding those doctors abroad, and its medical brigades for disaster relief continue to earn Havana goodwill worldwide.
Head of welfare in Lombardy, Giulio Gallera, requested help from the Cuban doctors
Graciliano Díaz, 64, said: ‘We are going to fulfil an honourable task, based on the principle of solidarity.’
Putin’s spokesman said Russian’s offer to help out NATO member Italy was ‘humanitarian’.
A spokesman for Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu: ‘The Russian Aerospace Forces’ military transport aircraft will jet eight mobile teams of military virologists and doctors, vehicles for aerosol disinfection of transport and territories, as well as medical equipment to the republic.’
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov the pandemic was something every nation has to tackle.
He said: ‘Italy is facing a totally severe epidemiological situation.
‘When taking a decision to help the Italian republic, Putin was primarily guided by humanitarian considerations.’
Russia currently has the lowest number of coronavirus infections among any large country, with 306 officially recorded cases across its 11 time zones.
Describing Russia’s aid to Italy, Peskov added: ‘Nearly all nations are facing the serious threat of coronavirus.
‘Efforts and capabilities should be joined to defeat it. Only together will nations be able to control the spread of this virus.’
Italian defence minister Lorenzo Guerini ‘expressed gratitude’ to the Russian armed forces, said Moscow.
Putin’s move appears to show a confidence that Russia is not facing an imminent mass spread of coronavirus.
The Kremlin leader was quick to seal off his country’s 2,615 mile border with China after the Wuhan outbreak.
President Vladimir Putin has said the virus is ‘generally under control’ in the country, and the government has promised to step up testing.
It also emerged Putin is being protected from infection around the clock with all of his staff undergoing mandatory testing and all workers involved in the presidents’ events schedule were being tested.
On Saturday Russia registered its first death of a patient infected with coronavirus.