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Report Of Errant Missile Strike At Russian Exercise Prompts Military Response


A Russian website posted a video it said showed an errant rocket from a helicopter hitting close to at least two people watching the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise Zapad 2017, prompting statements from the military that left it unclear when the incident occurred and whether anyone was badly injured.

The video, posted on September 19 by a site called 66.ru that says it is based in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, shows a man walking near a row of vehicles and what appears to be a rocket fired by a helicopter in the background slamming into the ground or a military truck a few feet away, setting off an explosion and sending the person filming the footage sprawling:

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.

No statement was posted on the Russian Defense Ministry website in the hours after the video was posted, but state-run Russian media and independent outlets quoted the press service of the Russia's Western Military District as saying that the video did depict an actual incident in which a helicopter fired an errant rocket.

The press service did not say when the incident occurred and it was not clear whether it was denying that it happened during Zapad 2017, which started on September 14.

Russian President Vladimir Putin observed part of the exercise on September 18 in the Leningrad region near St. Petersburg.

"A target was misidentified by the sighting system of one of the helicopters," state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the press service as saying. "As a result of the strike by the unguided rocket, one truck without people in it suffered damage."

The quote carried by media outlets made no reference to people or injuries.

The St. Petersburg-based news site Fontanka.ru website in St. Petersburg, citing unnamed sources, reported that three missiles were fired at an area where civilian and military vehicles were parked late on September 18. The report said that one person was hospitalized.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment and referred questions to the Defense Ministry.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service, Current Time TV, RIA Novosti, Meduza, TASS, Dozhd, and Interfax
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