At least two civilians have been injured in a bombing incident during Russia’s war games on Monday. Videos of the incident have been posted to YouTube and appear to show two helicopters firing at a civilian viewing area. Russian media report that the incident is being investigated by the military.
The war exercises, called “Zapad-2017" or “West 2017,” are believed to be the largest show of military strength by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. And the war games come amid heightened tensions with the United States as the world is now operating much more like the Cold War, a period ostensibly ended in 1991.
The helicopter attack that left at least two hurt took place at a test site near Luga, the same one that Vladimir Putin himself was at just yesterday to observe the war games. Luga is roughly 70 miles from Russia’s border with Estonia, a member of NATO.
In one video, a person casually walks through the frame while watching the helicopters fly overhead. One of the choppers fires just a few feet in front of the person, sending the person who’s filming running.
The incident is so far being blamed on a “technical glitch,” though the investigation is ongoing. The region saw poor weather yesterday, but that has not been raised as a possible trigger for the bombs being dropped.
“At least two cars burned down, two people were seriously injured, they are now hospitalised,” an unnamed source told Russian media, according to an English translation by the Moscow Times.
“The victims were most likely journalists,” the unnamed source said, though victims have yet to be identified by any news outlet.
Roughly 12,700 Russian and Belarussian service members are said to be participating in the West-2017 exercises, though Western critics believe it to be more than that. The exact number is only important because once it’s larger than 13,000 Russia is obligated under a 2011 treaty to allow western observers.
Russia said that it had test-fired a ballistic missile on Monday that’s capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, something that the United States has done recently in its own show of strength against North Korea.
Kremlin-backed English-language media outlets like RT and Sputnik have yet to report on the incident. But I’m sure they’ll get around to it soon.
It could not be confirmed by press time whether we’re supposed to call this the New Cold War, Cold War 2.0 or something else entirely. But whatever we decide to call it, the whole situation is obviously not great. [Fontanka and Moscow Times]