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Five military planes with virologists on board to evacuate Russians from China - ministry

The Defense Ministry added that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had already ordered to set up an air force group to evacuate Russian nationals from China

MOSCOW, February 1. /TASS/. The Russian Aerospace Force’s five aircraft, which will carry military virologists on board, have been tasked with evacuating Russian nationals from China, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s instruction, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters on Saturday.

The Defense Ministry added that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had already ordered to set up an air force group to evacuate Russian nationals from China.

"Five aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Force will be dispatched to urgently evacuate Russian citizens to Russia. Each plane will carry military doctors and experts of the Russian Defense Ministry, who specialize in virology and will be equipped with advanced diagnostic tools, with means of individual protection and also with all necessary medicines," the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the Aerospace Force to fly aircraft to China for evacuation of the Russian nationals trapped in the Chinese regions most affected by coronavirus.

On December 31, 2019, Chinese authorities informed the World Health Organization (WHO) about an outbreak of an unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan and later identified the infecting agent as coronavirus 2019-nCoV. Thousands of foreigners are still trapped in the quarantined city of Wuhan, a large trade and industrial metropolis in central China with the population of 11 million. A number of foreign governments, including the United States and Japan, are evacuating their citizens on special flights. Russia’s embassy is arranging the evacuation of 341 Russians from Wuhan and the Hubei Province.

Apart from China, 23 other countries, including Russia, have reported confirmed coronavirus cases. The WHO declared the new coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency. Up to now, China has confirmed over 11,700 cases of patients infected with the novel coronavirus, while the death toll from the virus has hit 259.