Ukraine interior minister and children among 16 killed in helicopter crash

The crash caused a large fire, and an entire side of the local nursery building was charred

Valentyn OgirenkoReuters
Published : 18 Jan 2023, 08:31 AM
Updated : 18 Jan 2023, 10:54 AM

At least 16 people including Ukraine's interior minister, other senior officials and three children were killed on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed near a nursery outside Kyiv in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called a "terrible tragedy".

Several bodies lay on the ground of a courtyard, their boots sticking out from under blankets, after the helicopter - described by the air force spokesperson as a French Super Puma - slammed into a building in Brovary, northeast of the capital.

  • Helicopter came down near nursery, caused fire

  • At least three children among 16 confirmed dead

  • Interior minister and two senior officials killed

The crash caused a large fire, and an entire side of the local nursery building was charred. The Kyiv region's governor said children and staff had been in the nursery at the time of the crash on Wednesday morning.

"We saw wounded people, we saw children. There was a lot of fog here, everything was strewn all around. We could hear screams, we ran towards them," Glib, a 17-year-old local resident, told Reuters on the scene. 

"We took the children and passed them over the fence, away from the nursery as it was on fire, especially the second floor," he said. 

The national police chief confirmed that Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, who was appointed under Zelenskiy in 2021, had been killed. His first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and the ministry's state secretary also died.

Regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said 18 people had been killed but the deputy head of the president's office later announced a death toll of 16, and said 30 others had been injured, including 12 children. Many had burns, officials said.

"Today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kyiv region," Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app. "The pain is unspeakable."

Officials said it was too early to determine what caused the crash. None spoke of an attack by Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February. 

The SBU State Security Service said it was investigating and considering several possible causes for the crash, including a breach of flight rules, a technical malfunction and the intentional destruction of the helicopter. 

"LEADING LIGHT"

Nine of the people confirmed dead were on board the helicopter, the police chief and emergency services said. 

Two witnesses described seeing an object hurtling towards the nursery from a northwesterly direction. 

"It was at about the height of the houses… those nine-storey ones. It was very low, and I saw red colours on it," one woman said. 

The crash was another blow to Ukraine, days after 45 people were killed in an apartment block hit during a Russian missile attack on the east-central city of Dnipro. 

Air force spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said it could take at least several weeks to investigate the disaster. 

"Unfortunately, the sky does not forgive mistakes, as pilots say, but it's really too early to talk about the causes," he said in a TV broadcast.

Monastyrskyi, 42, was a trained lawyer and politician who won a seat in the 2019 parliamentary election representing Zelenskiy's party. He served as head of the parliamentary Committee on Law Enforcement Affairs and replaced Arsen Avakov as interior minister after Avakov quit in July 2021.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman called Monastyrskyi "a leading light in supporting the Ukrainian people during Putin's illegal invasion" and said she was struck by his determination, optimism and patriotism."

Numerous other leaders, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, sent their condolences.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher