Russian military refutes rumors of journalists hit at Zapad-2017 exercise

Posted September 20, 2017

A number of people were injured in western Russian Federation after a military helicopter accidentally fired at least one rocket near a group of onlookers, according to media reports. Asked by reporters about the incident, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred questions to the defense ministry. Some reports noted two people were injured. It did not give details on the source of the video. Journalists, veterans' groups and other were allowed to watch portions of the Russian war games.

The 66.ru report quoted a source it did not identify as saying that two people were seriously injured and that the incident occurred "yesterday or the day before", but no specific date was given. Both reports included a video purportedly showing the incident, which they said happened at an exercise at a firing range near St. Petersburg during the war games, known as Zapad-2017. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

One Lithuanian army officer, Lt. Col. Linas Idzelis, said that some of his civilian friends considered planning vacations around the exercises, so that they would be outside the country in case of invasion.

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In the footage, two KA-52 helicopters are travelling at speed at a low altitude.

Authorities in Russian Federation say observers from Sweden, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Norway have attended the war games, while Vladimir Putin visited the site on Monday. The 45-minute simulated battle went off without incident.

An incident with a combat helicopter that fired a missile at spectators has recently occurred during Zapad 2017 military drills. The muscle-flexing, which began Thursday, highlights the scope of a fighting force that has taken a crash course of reforms and upgrades over the last decade.

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Russian Federation is now staging the Zapad 2017 war games in the area.

The major exercises have elicited criticism from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the USA, who say Russian Federation has concealed the true number of troops taking part, and troubled some observers in Eastern Europe, where the Kremlin's invasion of Crimea in 2014 remains fresh.

However, experts are concerned a far higher number which actually take part, with some warning as many as 100,000 soldiers could descend on the country.

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