Russia’s big Zapad 2017 military exercises, believed to be the largest since the end of the Cold War, entered the news again on Tuesday after a video emerged appearing to show a Russian attack helicopter firing its rockets into a group of bystanders during drills.
The ministry told Russian news agencies the Ka-52 helicopter’s targeting computer had accidentally locked onto a military truck visible in the video, near several civilian cars, as it and another helicopter took part in army exercises.
The incident took place at the same firing range where, on Monday, president Vladimir Putin watched a display of fire power as part of the Zapad exercises, that are being called some of the largest since the Cold War and have attracted intense attention in recent weeks.
The day Putin attended, dozens of planes and artillery units unleashed a barrage of projectiles onto Luzhsky firing range close to Saint Petersburg as part of a drill simulating a defense against an attack by a force intended to represent NATO.
Russia is conducting the week-long Zapad exercises with its Eastern European ally, Belarus.
The exercises have elicited criticism from NATO and the U.S., who say Russia has concealed the true number of troops taking part, and troubled some observers in Eastern Europe, where the Kremlin’s 2014 invasion of Crimea remains fresh.
Russia has said no more than 13,000 troops are taking part in Zapad, which means West, just below the threshold that would require it to invite international observers. But NATO officials have repeatedly suggested that the real number is likely far higher, potentially between 70,000 and 100,000.
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