Two citizens were seriously injured in western Russia, as a Kremlin helicopter accidentally fired off two rockets Tuesday in the direction of onlookers trying to capture video of the military exercises.
Russian website 66.ru reports that the missiles “blasted off on their own,” and that “at least two cars burned down, two people were seriously injured, [and] they are now hospitalized.”
The victims were reportedly journalists, in the area to cover the “Zapad War Games” which began Sept. 14 and concludes Sept. 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the incident through a pair of binoculars, as he was in town to observe the games. This year’s war games have been reported to be the largest in years.
NATO is monitoring the military exercise, Zapad 2017, located in western Russia, Russia’s exclave of Kaliningrad, and Belarus, a Russian ally which borders Ukraine, as well as NATO member states Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Kremlin said almost 13,000 Russian and Belarussian service personnel are taking part, as well as around 70 planes and helicopters. It says almost 700 pieces of military hardware are being deployed, including almost 250 tanks, 10 ships and various artillery and rocket systems.
While purported as purely a military event in Russia, it is an obvious display by Putin of Russia’s military might to NATO onlookers. Some NATO officials observing the event believe the numbers given by Moscow may be inaccurate. Russia has denied all allegations that they haven’t been transparent about the exercise.
Russia, on Monday, said they successfully tested the firing of a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, nailing a target 300 miles away in Kazakhstan. The Kremlin has purported their usual argument, saying it is the West to blame for military tensions in the region, as NATO has placed a force of 4,000 multinational troops in the Baltics and Poland, while the US has sent over 600 paratroopers to the Baltics specifically in response to Zapad.
Furthermore, the US has taken over air patrol of NATO allies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia for the time being, which lack capable air forces and air defense systems.
In the full video below, the victims can be seen attempting to film the helicopter’s maneuvers before the scary explosion occurs.
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