The Russian army is bringing home medical personnel and military personnel who have provided assistance in Italy against the new coronavirus.
That is what Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigoe said, according to news agency Interfax.
At the end of March, Russia sent personnel and equipment to Italy, then the largest source of the virus in Europe. They will be retrieved from Thursday. Russia called the aid mission ‘From Russia with love’.
That reference to the title of a James Bond movie took on a new meaning after a diplomatic riot broke out over the mission.
The Volkskrant reported in early April that Russia was furious with Italy after the Italian newspaper La Stampa wrote that the vast majority of Russian goods were not usable, and also suggested that Russia had sent spies on the relief mission.
The Italian government then did not like Russian accusations of Cold War rhetoric against the newspaper and pointed out to Russia the freedom of the press.
It is not clear whether the riot played a role in the withdrawal of the personnel.
In Russia, the new coronavirus is quickly spreading. The daily number of infections detected has been above 10,000 in the past four days. In total, Russia reported 165,929 cases of infection, of which 1537 were fatal.