Following talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte earlier in March, the Russian military sent a total of 15 aircraft and dozens of specialists to Italy, along with disinfection and diagnostic equipment. On Wednesday, Iacoboni said in his article, citing unnamed high-ranking sources, that 80 percent of Russia's aid was useless. The journalist went on to say that Russia's special equipment, disinfection systems and test laboratories were not as helpful as the cargo of ventilators and masks that China sent to Italy. In addition, the journalist looked into the experience of high-ranking Russian military personnel who arrived in Italy in fighting serious diseases.
"The journalist, citing 'high-ranking political sources,' claims that 80 percent of Russia's assistance to Italy is allegedly unnecessary and useless. Of course, we do not know what sources the author refers to, and we focus primarily on the well-known published statements of Italian officials," Russian Ambassador to Rome Sergey Razov said in the letter that was published on La Stampa's website on Friday.
The diplomat recalled that Conte had thanked Putin for the medical supplies in a telephone conversation on 21 March and that Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio had personally come to meet the aircraft and express gratitude to Russia. The same was done by the Italian ambassador to Moscow, a representative of the General Staff of the Italian Armed Forces and many other officials.
"In any case, the correspondent should not have misled respected readers regarding the true reaction of senior Italian officials to Russia's actions. As for the usefulness or uselessness of ... the Russian assistance, it seems to us that it would be worth asking the residents of Bergamo, where our specialists and equipment have begun working," Razov said, adding that Bergamo was one of the most affected cities in northern Italy.
According to the ambassador, Iacoboni should have taken into account that the Russian and Italian troops are risking their health and perhaps even their lives by working on front lines of the pandemic.
Iacoboni stated in his article that the agreement between Conte and Putin could have been geopolitical in nature, with Italian prime minister agreeing to accept the assistance in order to strengthen personal and political relations with Moscow, and the Russian president using the deal as an opportunity to play some role in the situation in Italy.
"As for the author’s arguments that the purpose of sending the Russian military to Italy (free of charge, by the way) aims to inflict some harm on Italy’s relations with NATO partners, we give the readers an opportunity to judge for themselves who helps the Italian people in such difficult times and how," Razov concluded.
Italy is fighting against a severe coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst outside of China, the original epicentre of the pandemic. The number of confirmed cases has exceeded 80,500 and is very close to China's infection toll. The number of fatal cases exceeds 8,100 and is the highest in the world so far.