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Almost 20 Russian nationals repatriated from Fiji along a long and exhausting route via Australia and Italy, have arrived in Moscow on repatriation flight together with their fellow countrymen evacuated from Rome, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has blogged on her Facebook page.
Within two days, a group of 18 Russian nationals had been traveling to Rome with the assistance of diplomats from the Russian embassies to Australia, Qatar and Italy, where a plane with a hundred of Russian passengers was waiting for them to evacuate all of them to Moscow. "Three hours ago they arrived in Moscow," Zakharova wrote.
She said that work to organize repatriation of Russian nationals from Fiji began in the second half of March, when a female Russian staying in Fiji "cried for help" in a message to the Russian Foreign Ministry. After that, the Russian side devised a plan for repatriating people, including from Fiji, she wrote.
"The Khanty-Mansi autonomous area was sending two planes to Southeast Asia to repatriate its residents. Six crews were taken on board for a ‘forced march’ without overnight stops to two Asian countries with making an additional detour to Fiji," she explained.
"However, when one of the planes had arrived in Asia and was ready to head to Fiji, the local authorities banned the flight at the last moment, citing impossibility to cancel the lockdown measures over coronavirus," Zakharova said.
After that, the Russian side looked into at least five schemes for their return, including via Hong Kong or waiting for a planned repatriation flight from Tokyo. However, some unsurmountable obstacles emerged each time, according to the diplomat.
As a result, only 18 Russian nationals could leave Fiji on May 22. In Sydney, they were joined by another six Russians who sought to return home. From Rome, where they had arrived on board a plane serviced by Qatar Airways, 117 Russian passengers together with transit passengers from other countries flew home on board on a special flight, yet another plane repatriating Russians from European countries.
Regular flights between Russia and Italy were suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. From June 3, Italy allows entry for nationals of the EU countries and countries of the Schengen zone, who will not be placed in quarantine.
According to the latest statistics, over 5.3 million people have been infected worldwide and more than 340,000 deaths have been reported. As of Sunday, 344,481 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Russia, with 113,299 patients having recovered from the disease.