The Russian Defense Ministry called the shooting a “purposeful provocation or someone’s personal stupidity.”

Three people were accidentally wounded on Tuesday by a military helicopter that was training on a rural zone in Western Russia. The salvo of rockets struck a crowd of invited spectators inside camouflaged military trucks and other vehicles, leaving at least one person knocked out – Russian news showed on their sides and social media.

The military exercises between Russia and Belarus were performed to simulate a supposed war between three invented adversaries: Veishnoriya – which would receive the support of the West, looking for a wedge between both Russian and Berusia -, Lubeniya and Vesbasriya. Despite the fact that these are imaginary countries, it would give Russia’s neighbors an example of a possible war situation among them, which could become a reality in any moment.

Russian forces during the Zapad exercises in Belarus. Image Credit: Sputnik International
Russian forces during the Zapad exercises in Belarus. Image Credit: Sputnik International

State TV channel NTV cited an official report stating that the rockets shot by the military helicopter on Sunday didn’t leave anyone seriously injured and that two cars were also damaged. However, it didn’t say much about what kind of injuries the three civilians suffered.

According to the report, the Ha-52 helicopter fired a C-8 rocket while it was traveling at an altitude of 150 feet and 120 mph.

“It’s very easy right now for Russia to signal its discontent to the West,” Jyri Raitasalo, a docent at the Finnish National Defense University in Helsinki, told The Atlantic. “Zapad is a military exercise, but in addition to its military significance it has an even bigger role in the wider political and media war.”

The discrepancy between officials and non-official reports

Although not many journalists were allowed to witness the Russian war games completely, and taking into consideration that the NTV report said those three people didn’t present serious injuries, the news site reported the opposite. According to the site, two spectators are hospitalized with serious injuries due to an inadvertent strike by a state-of-the-art Ka-52 helicopter.

Both reports included a video showing when the vehicles received the rockets in a firing range, near St. Petersburg, known as Zapad-2017. It also showed a person dressing as a civilian, standing near the trucks, and being consumed by a cloud of dust, along with the person that was filming the clip and had to sprawl on the ground.

Another video was sponsored and posted on social media by Russian investigative bloggers Conflict Intelligence Team, showing the result of the accident – including a white jeep with a crushed window and shrapnel damage. However, according to Reuters, the video couldn’t have been verified.

“No incidents involving army aviation happened in playing an episode of practical actions during the Zapad 2017 strategic exercise on Sept. 18,” said the Western Military District’s news service of Russia. There was any explication of why this date of the accident was totally different from the one given in NTV’s report.

Jets during the second stage of the Zapad 2017 exercises.  Image Credit: Viktor Tolochko / Sputnik
Jets during the second stage of the Zapad 2017 exercises. Image Credit: Viktor Tolochko / Sputnik

“As a result of a strike by an unguided rocket, a cargo vehicle with no people on board was damaged,” said the Interfax news agency quoting a representative of the Russian Defense Ministry’s western military district. It also denied that anyone had been injured.

The exercises continued on Monday with a simulated battle lasting 45 minutes, attended by a huge amount of military observers, more than 100 journalists, and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. The war games ended without incident.

A display of Russia’s strength in a possible war

Russia and Belarus have shown a robust and impressive military equipment these last days on the Zapad, or “West,” exercises. Since the war games began on Thursday, the military responses to the imaginary “Western Coalition” have demonstrated the strength of both nations fighting on the same side.

These exercises are held every four years to show the upgrades of the Russian military. The leaders of the Baltic nations, who would be at the NATO’s front lines fighting against Russia, said that this year’s war games seemed to be very similar to an attack against the NATO forces in the Eastern Europe. According to an international agreement, Russia should formally invite NATO observers if the troops surpassed the amount of 13,000. However, it didn’t involve more than 12,700 troops.

On Monday, Russia invited Germany, Italy, Croatia, and Norway to witness the war games. But the NATO’s leader said that Russia has lied about the number of troops Moscow has, which represents a total of 100,000 or more.

Moscow believes that there are possible hostile NATO forces that seek to take out Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has openly said that he doesn’t want another revolution, which already happened in Ukraine for a pro-Western government in 2014.

Source: The Washington Post