MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The eighth and ninth Russian military aircraft with specialists and supplies to help Italy fight the coronavirus have departed from the Moscow region, the Russian Defence Ministry informs.

The Il-76 military transport aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces took off from the Chkalovsky Airport in the Moscow region on Monday morning, the ministry said. They are headed to the Pratica di Mare Air Base in Italy.

In a separate statement, the Russian Defence Ministry said that Russia’s third and fourth military aircraft sent to Italy had arrived at the di Mare air base. In a later statement on Monday the ministry said that Russia’s fifth plane had arrived at the base.

Earlier, it was reported the first and second Il-76 planes sent by Russia to Italy had arrived at the Pratica di Mare base.

According to the Russian Defence Ministry, Russian specialists will start providing help to Italy in the fight against COVID-19 after coordinating the specific regions that need the assistance.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio met the Russian military specialists and virologists who arrived at the Pratica di Mare air base on Sunday night.

On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte discussed the COVID-19 pandemic during phone talks. Putin confirmed Russia’s readiness to provide prompt assistance to Italy in the fight against the COVID-19 disease.

Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini has thanked his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu for the help that Russia has provided Italy in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Saturday that Russia was going to send medical virologists, doctors, medical equipment and vehicles for aerosol disinfection to Italy to assist it in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

According to the Johns Hopkins University count, there are currently over 59,000 coronavirus cases registered in Italy and more than 5,400 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in that country.

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