The shocking but unsubstantiated claims were made by a top Russian political analyst during a radio interview on Wednesday. Valery Solovey, who until recently was a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and now works as a researcher for the US Wilson Center, told Echo Moskvy that military virologists had made the frightening discovery while studying the outbreak in Italy. Last Saturday, Russia sent 600 ventilators and 100 military virologists and epidemiologists to Italy following talks between Vladimir Putin and the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte.
Mr Solovey told journalist Maksim Kurnikov: “As regards Italy, that is a particularly interesting subject.
“The main people in the expedition to Italy are the military virologists, who are studying mutations in the virus.
“And what they have discovered is frightening, I am terribly sad to say. It has caused considerable alarm among our political leadership.
“It turned out that in several cases, although it’s still not clear why, the virus rapidly mutates into an extremely aggressive form and practically behaves like a pneumonic plague.
“People die within a few hours, irrespective of age and immunity.”
Mr Solovey went on to accuse President Putin of trying to cover up the extent of the outbreak in Russia, as reports emerged of the Russian army hastily erecting field hospitals on territory belonging to the Ministry of Defence in Russia’s regions.
When contacted by Express.co.uk, Public Health England categorically dismissed Mr Solovey’s claims.
On Sunday, Russian health authorities confirmed 658 new case of COVID-19 infection, bringing the official number of cases up to 5,389.
According to official data, 45 people have lost their lives to the lethal virus.
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Experts are highly suspicious over the reliability and veracity of official coronavirus figures, with many accusing the Kremlin of trying to cover up the true scale of the outbreak.
Some officials have warned that the real figures are likely to be much higher than currently reported.
In further news, high-placed political sources in Italy told La Stampa newspaper that around 80 percent of the coronavirus supplies sent from Moscow were “useless”.
Footage of Russian military trucks en route with supplies from Rome to Bergamo, the epicentre of the health crisis in Italy, circulated online.
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Those supplies included disinfection equipment, a field laboratory for sterilization and chemical prevention and other similar equipment.
The source told the Italian newspaper: “Eighty percent of Russian supplies are totally useless or of little use to Italy.
“In short, this is little more than a pretext.”
The source added that Putin is exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to pursue geopolitical and diplomatic opportunities through the aid package, which is dubbed “From Russia With Love”.
Russia’s ambassador to Italy strongly refuted the claims, calling them “perverse”.
Sergey Razov told Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency: “Such assertions are the product of a perverse mind.
“A selfless desire to help a friendly people in trouble is seen as insidious.”
Last Monday, Moscow enacted a citywide quarantine, that has placed some 12 million people in lockdown.
Saint Petersburg and other regions followed the capital’s example, by imposing their own partial curfews.
Moscow’s number of coronavirus cases surpassed 1,000 over the weekend and under the terms of the lockdown, Muscovites can only go out to buy food or medicines, get urgent medical treatment, walk the dog or take out their rubbish.
The city’s mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, a Putin ally, said that 20 percent of residents were ignoring his orders to self-isolate.
He said that he hoped to be able to roll out by the end of the week an IT system that would allow city authorities to control the movement of people.
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