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Russia begins withdrawing military virus experts from Italy

Russia on Thursday began withdrawing military experts and medics sent to Italy during the height of the coronavirus pandemic as part of an aid effort that critics said carried political overtones.

Russia begins withdrawing military virus experts from Italy
Russian Army specialists in Lombardy, Italy, on April 28th. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

an”We will begin the pullout of radiation, chemical and biological protection units from Italy,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting of military leaders on Wednesday.

He said the military would host a ceremony to mark their return and asked for “proposals for the promotion of distinguished military personnel, doctors and all those who were involved in disinfection in cities and facilities in Italy”.

Russia has sent military planes with specialists and equipment to countries including Italy, China and the United States, gestures that have prompted criticism from some Russians over using crucial resources for geopolitical aims.

Moscow said in March when the programme began that the aid for Italy included protective equipment and about 100 virus specialists with experience dealing with Ebola and swine fever.

et Italian media reported that much of the equipment was not useful in the fight against the virus, sparking a diplomatic spat.

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Italy in July last year and has often spoken of his long friendship with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

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COST OF LIVING

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

Italy on Thursday night approved new measures worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion) to help families and businesses manage the surging cost of fuel and essentials.

Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

As expected, the final version of the ‘aiuti-bis‘ decree provides another extension to the existing 30-cents-per-litre cut to fuel duty, more help with energy bills, and a tax cut for workers earning under 35,000 euros a year.

The package also includes further funding for mental health treatment: there’s another 15 million euros for the recently-introduced ‘psychologist bonus’ on top of the 10 million previously allocated.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

There are also measures to help agricultural firms deal with this year’s severe drought.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi described the new package as an intervention “of incredible proportions”, which corresponds to “a little over 2 points of national GDP”.

However, he said, no changes were made to the national budget to pave the way for the new measures.

The measures will be funded with 14.3 billion euros in higher-than-expected tax revenues this year, and the deployment of funds that have not yet been spent, Economy and Finance Minister Daniele Franco said.

Italy has already budgeted some 35 billion euros since January to soften the impact of rising fuel costs.

The decree is one of the last major acts by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

Elections are set for September 25th but the former European Central Bank chief is staying on in a caretaker role until a new government is formed.

Draghi said the Italian economy was performing better than expected, citing the International Monetary Fund’s estimate of three percent for 2022.

“They say that in 2022, we will grow more than Germany, than France, than the average of the eurozone, more than the United States,” he told a press conference.

But he noted the many problems facing Italy, “from the high cost of living, to inflation, the rise in energy prices and other materials, to supply difficulties, widespread insecurity and, of course political insecurity”.

Inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

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