The Russian Defense Ministry has vehemently denied that a helicopter gunship fired on civilians during the Zapad military drills taking place outside of St. Petersburg. Official military sources have characterized it as just a “deliberate provocation or just somebody’s personal stupidity.”
In a statement quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency on Tuesday, the Western Military District said reports that several people had been injured in an accidental helicopter gunship strike at the controversial Zapad war games were completely false.
“There were no incidents involving army aviation during an episode of the strategic exercise Zapad-2017 on September 18,” the statement said.
The Russian military’s denial came after footage surfaced on social media purporting to show a Ka-52 helicopter firing a rocket towards a row of parked cars and spectators during Zapad exercises at the Luzhsky range in western Russia. A second video from the same location showed the aftermath of the strike, including smashed car windows and shrapnel damage to a military truck. Neither video could be independently verified.
The Russians claim that the video footage shown on social media this week was old from a previous military exercise. “The homing system of one of the helicopters locked on a wrong target by mistake. An unguided missile hit a truck. There was no one inside,” the statement said. However, the Russians declined to state when or where the footage was from.
The Russians claim that Zapad is defensive in nature and simulates actions against “foreign backed extremists” and involves only about 13,000 troops. NATO officials who have been keeping a close eye on the exercise state that the exercise and drills are a prelude to a possible invasion of the west and involved up to five times as many troops.
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Photo courtesy Russia Defense Ministry