Russian helicopter accidentally fires rocket at onlookers

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A Russian attack helicopter mistakenly fired at least one rocket into a crowd of spectators during a large-scale military exercise in western Belarus simulating a counterattack against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces.

The video on the online 66.ru news portal shows a pair of helicopter gunships buzzing low, with one of them firing a rocket that explodes next to a spectator. At least two vehicles were destroyed, whereas two people, most likely journalists, suffered serious injuries, the source said.

The Russian military acknowledged Tuesday the video was genuine, but denied it happened Monday.

According to 66.ru, the incident took place on the Lujchi polygon in western Russian Federation. The report said that one person was hospitalized.

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The Zapad-2017 is, most of the times, organized in Belarus, in the ultra-militarized enclave of Kaliningrad and in several regions of northwestern Russian Federation. As a result of the incident, two people got to hospital with severe wounds, and two automobiles were burnt, 66.RU reports with a reference to an anonymous source.

Life.ru said the rocket exploded near a crowd of journalists, military experts and foreign military attaches.

The Russian military was conducting exercises known as "West 2017", where they demonstrate their might to intimidate North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

According to the press services of Russia's Western Military District, on 17 September "the crews of Mi-28N and Ka-52 attack helicopters from the Western Military District air force carried out tasks including aerial reconnaissance and missile strikes on ground targets" as part of the Zapad 2017 strategic joint exercises at the Luzhsky training ground, the website reported.

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Russian Federation put on a display of heavy firepower for president Vladimir Putin and foreign media gathered Monday to watch military exercises that are believed to be some of the largest held since the end of the Cold War.

According to the Russians, the helicopter's automated targeting system locked onto the truck by mistake and fired the missile.

As commander-in-chief of Russia's armed forces, Mr Putin observed the simulated battles along with a number of top generals at the start of this week. "An unguided missile hit a truck but did not injure anyone", the military spokesman said.

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