More than 500 Italian medics sign up to provide aid on Ukraine front line

The Italian region of Lazio has received hundreds of responses to its call for healthcare personnel to travel to Ukraine amid Russia's assault on the country.

More than 500 Italian medics sign up to provide aid on Ukraine front line
A medical worker at a first aid tent in Rome. After facing the Covid-19 pandemic, medical staff from the Lazio region are now volunteering to go to the front line in Ukraine. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Some 500 doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers responded to the appeal from the authorities in Lazio, the region around Rome, for medical staff to travel to the borders of Ukraine and potentially into war zones amid the Russian attack on the country, reports Italian newspaper Repubblica.

The regional health authority called for professionals to provide medical assistance “in the areas affected by the conflict as well as in neighbouring countries”.

The regions of Lombardy and Piedmont are also recruiting doctors to travel to the borders of Ukraine to help civilians travel to Italy to receive the treatment they need.

READ ALSO: Russian invasion of Ukraine: What has Italy’s response been so far?

Italian media reported on Friday that Lombardy’s health authority was ready to dispatch the first flight taking doctors and a shipment of medicines to Romania.

Piedmont is also preparing to send doctors and nurses from the region to Romania as soon as possible to take child cancer patients for treatment at Turin’s Regina Margherita hospital.

The recruitment drives were organised independently by regional authorities, and are not coordinated nationwide.

For the medics to be allowed to depart, however, they need the go-ahead from the national government, which must make arrangements for the medical care of refugees on their arrival in Italy. As of Monday the government does not appear to have authorised the regions’ aid flights to leave Italy.

Health services in other Italian regions are contributing medicines to the humanitarian assistance programme set up by the Italian Department for Civil Protection in order to collect medical supplies requested by the Ukrainian government.

The first shipment of aid from Italy arrived at the Ukraine border on Thursday, the Department for Civil Protection said in a statement.

Italian regions are meanwhile also preparing plans to immunise arrivals from Ukraine against Covid-19, given that Ukraine has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe.

The Lombardy region alone has said it is peparing to receive 100,000 people fleeing from the conflict.

READ ALSO: How is Italy responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis?

Some 900,000 refugees are expected to arrive in Italy from Ukraine in the coming weeks, according to Fabio Prevedello of the European Italy-Ukraine Cultural Association.

“This estimate is based on the fact that there are about 250,000 Ukrainians in Italy, that many relatives will try to join them and that every Ukrainian family has an average of 2-3 children,” he said in an interview with the Ansa news agency.

A total of around one million refugees have fled Ukraine since the conflict began, according to the UN refugee agency.

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Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Italian energy company Eni confirmed it is opening accounts in rubles with Gazprombank to pay for gas supplies, complying with Moscow's demands.

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Eni said in a statement on Tuesday it was opening accounts in rubles and euros with Gazprom Bank “on a precautionary basis” as “deadlines for the payment of gas supplies are scheduled for the next few days”.

It was not immediately clear whether the move would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Vladimir Putin demanded at the end of March that payment be made in rubles or the gas supply to European countries would be cut off, as he hit back at sanctions placed on Russia by EU countries following its invasion of Ukraine.
Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the time that his company would not comply with the demands, saying “Eni doesn’t have rubles” and “the contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.
But many European companies and their lawyers have since been looking at ways to meet the demand without breaching sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine, reports Bloomberg.
EU officials had said opening a ruble account would breach sanctions. But its latest guidelines, to be published this week, are expected to stop short of banning bank accounts in rubles and  therefore allow companies to keep buying Russian gas, Bloomberg reports.
Like other European countries, Italy says it is working to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.