Dramatic video footage has emerged of a helicopter accidentally firing a rocket at bystanders watching Russia's military drills.
At least two bystanders were injured and two cars burnt down in the incident that occurred during the Zapad 2017 military exercises, the 66.ru news website reported Tuesday, citing an unidentified source familiar with the situation.
According to the Yekaterinburg regional news website 66.ru that first broke the story and published a video of the incident, two military helicopters were chasing a target when one of them accidentally fired air-to-ground rockets at bystanders.
The video of the incident, published by 66.ru, depicts a helicopter firing a shot at a man walking near three cars.
"[The helicopters] were 500 meters away from the target. They activated the weapon chain, but something malfunctioned, and rockets went down [earlier]," the source told 66.ru and added that two people - "most likely journalists" - were hospitalised with serious injuries.
The incident was reported to have taken place at the Luzhski range right outside of St. Petersburg. It remains unclear when it happened, but the 66.ru report suggests that it wasn't long before Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the range on Monday.
Later on Tuesday the RBC news outlet reported that the incident happened on September 16, citing an anonymous source close to Russia's Defence Ministry. The source claimed three people got injured in the incident, and none of them were civilians.
RBC published another video of the incident, showing the helicopter firing rockets at a military truck parked near three apparent civilian cars.
The Defence Ministry refuted claims that the shot was fired at bystanders who were watching the Zapad exercise.
The video posted by 66.ru depicts an incident that happened "at a different period of time," during another army aviation exercise, the Ministry spokespeople told RBC.
They confirmed the fact that a helicopter accidentally fired a rocket at a parking lot, and said that an empty military truck was damaged as a result.
Information about "many people heavily injured" is either "deliberate provocation," or "someone's personal silliness," the Ministry officials said.
Zapad 2017 is a large-scale joint military exercise of Russia and Belarus that raised concerns in neighboring European countries as a potential threat to regional security. 12,700 troops are officially said to be participating, together with some 140 tanks, up to 150 artillery and air defence units and more than 40 planes and helicopters.