In a historically unprecedented measure, the Russian military has sent well over a dozen strategic lift aircraft packed with medics and medical equipment to help the Mediterranean nation battle COVID-19.

Russian military medics sent to Italy to assist that country in its fight against coronavirus have been spotted on route to Bergamo, the Lombardy region city which has become one of the global epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak.

A series of tweets featuring photos and videos of the deployment show Russian Kamaz trucks with their distinctive black military license plates on route to their destination, escorted by Italian police.

Tweet reads: “Russian military trucks driving through Italy with humanitarian aid. When else could you see something like that?”

The equipment includes a mobile complex for virus analysis and diagnostics, high-level mobile disinfection equipment and a supply of disinfectants, and special equipment to allow doctors to provide qualified medical assistance to heavily ill patients.

The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed Wednesday that a convoy had left the Pratica di Mare Air Base in Pomezia outside Rome, kicking off their journey toward Bergamo, some 600 km to the north. That city’s health care system has been overrun by COVID-19 patients in recent weeks, with doctors reporting too few ICU beds and ventilation systems, and issuing please to the rest of Italy, Europe and the world for assistance.

“On March 25th, a convoy of special equipment with medical specialists of the Russian Ministry of Defence began their march from the Pratica di Mare Air Force Base to Bergamo to carry out operations to assist in the fight against the spread of coronavirus infections,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Later in the day, the military confirmed that the convoy had already traversed over 250 km, and took a brief stop in Florence before continuing on their route.

In the last few days, Russia has sent fifteen heavy-lift military transport aircraft loaded with supplies and specialists to help diagnose, treat and disinfect COVID-19-hit northern Italy. Moscow began sending the specialists to the country after a telephone conversation between President Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last Saturday.

With over 69,000 cases and 6,800 deaths, Italy has been one of the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Italians have expressed anger over the alleged inaction by their European Union and American allies in dealing with the crisis, and have praised Russia and China’s offers to assist.

On Sunday, the Russian Defence Ministry specified that the virologists deployed to help combat COVID-19 in Bergamo were qualified specialists armed with extensive practical experience, including know-how in eliminating outbreaks of African swine fever, anthrax and in the creation of a vaccine against Ebola.

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