Ukraine Interior Minister and several children killed in helicopter crash near nursery

Three children and several senior officials were among the dead

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At least 14 people, including Ukraine's interior minister and three children, were killed when a helicopter crashed into buildings near the capital on Wednesday, police said.

The helicopter hit close to an early years school and a residential building in Brovary, east of Kyiv, the governor of the region said.

The French-made Super Puma was on its way to the front line in foggy conditions at the time of the incident. The cause of the accident is being investigated, but as yet there is no sign it had been targeted.

Among the dead were Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his first deputy Yevheniy Yenin, other senior officials, plus three children on the ground.

Ukrainian state emergency services said 14 people in total had been killed. Government agencies had earlier published higher death tolls ranging up to 18.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the full death toll was still being determined. He offered his condolences on social media to the victims' friends and families.

“As of this minute, three children died. The pain is unspeakable,” he wrote.

The helicopter was en route to the front line in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces recently claimed they had taken control of the salt-mine town Soledar.

Speaking at a meeting with veterans on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Moscow's action in Ukraine was intended to stop a “war” that has raged in the east for “many years”.

“Large-scale combat operations involving heavy weapons, artillery, tanks and aircraft haven’t stopped in Donbas since 2014,” he said.

“All that we are doing today as part of the special military operation is an attempt to stop this war. This is the meaning of our operation — protecting people who live on those territories.”

Nine of those killed in the crash were aboard the emergency services helicopter that crashed, Mr Klymenko said.

At least 29 people were injured, including 15 children, officials said.

An investigation is being carried out by the Security Service of Ukraine. Germany has offered Kyiv its support to identify the cause of the accident.

One witness said they passed children over the fence away from the nursery, which was on fire.

Amateur footage circulating on social media showed what appeared to be the charred remains of the aircraft mixed with debris from nearby buildings and a car crushed by large shards of metal.

Several dead bodies covered by foil blankets lay in a courtyard near the damaged nursery, where emergency workers were at the scene.

Debris was scattered over a playground and the rotor blades of the helicopter had cut into a building.

Helicopter crash in Ukraine kills 18

Military and rescuers work near the site where a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside the capital Kyiv, killing Sixteen people, including two children and Ukrainian interior minister, on January 18, 2023, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  (Photo by Sergei Supinsky  /  AFP)

Officials gave no reason for the crash and there was no comment from Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February.

Ukrainian officials made no reference to any Russian attack in the area at the time.

Mr Monastyrskyi, 42, who was responsible for the police and security in Ukraine, was married with two children.

He is the most senior official to die since the war began. A leading member of Mr Zelenskyy's party, he was appointed by the President in 2021 and was a trained lawyer.

“My colleagues, my friends. What a tragic loss. Deepest condolences to their families,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser.

Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said the death of Mr Monastyrskyi and two senior officials was a “great loss” for the country.

“A great loss for the government team and the entire state. My sincere condolences to the families of all the victims. I instructed (officials) to immediately create a special group for a detailed investigation of all the circumstances of the tragedy,” he said on Telegram.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Ukraine had lost a “leading light” in its resistance against the Russian invasion.

“This is truly heartbreaking. Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky was a leading light in supporting the Ukrainian people during Putin's illegal invasion and when we spoke in October I was struck by his determination, optimism and patriotism,” she said.

“My thoughts go out to all those who have died in this horrible tragedy and their families. The UK will always stand with our Ukrainian friends.”

EU Council President Charles Michel paid tribute on Wednesday.

“We join Ukraine in grief following the tragic helicopter accident,” he said in a post on social media.

“Minister Denys Monastyrskyi was a great friend of the EU. We share our deepest condolences with the families of the victims, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal and the people of Ukraine.”

On Twitter, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the crash showed the “immense toll” Ukraine is paying in the war against Russia.

“Our thoughts on this sad day are with the families of the victims and the injured, and with Mr Zelenskyy, who lost his Interior Minister today.”

In a video that circulated online after the incident, cries could be heard at the scene, which was consumed by a fire.

“In the city of Brovary, a helicopter fell near a kindergarten and a residential building,” the head of the Kyiv regional administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, said on Telegram.

“At the time of the tragedy, children and employees were in the kindergarten,” he said. “There are casualties.”

Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska was seen in tears minutes before attending a World Economic Forum session in Davos, Switzerland.

“Another very sad day today, new losses,” she said.

Forum President Borge Brende requested 15 seconds of silence after opening the session to honour the Ukrainian officials killed in the crash.

It happened four days after a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in south-eastern Ukraine killed 45 civilians, including six children — the deadliest attack on civilians since the spring.

“Haven’t had time to recover from one tragedy, there is already another one,” said Mr Tymoshenko.

Brovary is about 20 kilometres north-east of Kyiv.

Russian and Ukrainian forces fought for control of Brovary in the early stages of Moscow's invasion until Russia's troops withdrew in early April.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 last year.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 3:33 PM