By Valentin Ogirenko
BROVARY, Ukraine (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Ukraine’s interior minister is among at least 15 people killed on Wednesday morning when a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside Kiev, Ukrainian officials said.
Officials said nine people on board the plane and six on the ground, including three children, died when the French-made Super Puma helicopter crashed in a residential area in the Brovary suburb on the capital’s eastern outskirts. . Previously, officials had given an initial death toll of 18.
The regional governor said 29 other people were injured, including 15 children.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the crash a terrible tragedy, saying the full death toll was still being determined and had ordered an investigation.
“As of this moment, three children have died. The pain is unspeakable,” she said in a statement.
At the scene, debris was strewn across a muddy playground and emergency workers hovered around a fleet of ambulances.
In a courtyard lay several corpses wearing blue Home Office uniforms and black boots, visible from under the foil blankets draped over them. A large chunk of the plane had landed on a car, destroying it.
National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko confirmed that Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi was killed along with his first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and other ministry officials flying in the helicopter operated by the state emergency service.
Ukrainian officials said it wasn’t immediately clear what caused the helicopter to crash. There were no immediate comments from Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February, and Ukrainian officials have not referred to any Russian attacks on the area at the time.
“Unfortunately, heaven does not forgive mistakes, as the pilots say, but it’s really too early to talk about the causes,” Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said, adding that it could take at least several weeks to investigate the disaster.
Monastyrskyi, 42, a lawyer and lawmaker appointed in 2021 to head the ministry with responsibility for the police, was the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die since the war began.
Separately, Ukraine has reported intense overnight fighting in the east of the country, where both sides have suffered huge losses for little gains in intense trench warfare over the past two months.
Ukrainian forces repelled attacks in the eastern town of Bakhmut and the village of Klishchiivka just to the south, the Ukrainian military said. Russia has focused on Bakhmut in recent weeks, claiming he took the mining town of Soledar on its northern outskirts last week.
After significant Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, the front lines have strengthened over the past two months. Kiev says it hopes new Western weapons will allow it to resume an offensive to recapture land, especially heavy tanks which would give its troops mobility and protection to cross Russian lines.
Western allies are meeting on Friday at a US airbase in Germany to pledge more weapons for Ukraine. Attention is particularly focused on Germany, which has veto power over any decision to send its Leopard tanks, deployed by militaries across Europe and widely considered best suited to Ukraine.
Berlin says a decision on tanks will be the first item on Boris Pistorius’ agenda, named its new defense minister this week.
Britain, which broke the Western taboo on sending main battle tanks over the weekend by promising a squadron of its Challengers, has asked Germany to approve the Leopards. Poland and Finland have already said they would be ready to send Pardi if Berlin allows it.
The Lithuanian foreign minister, present at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he was confident that there would be a decision to send tanks.
“I am hopeful because that is what I hear here, talking to other leaders. There is momentum,” Gabrielius Landsbergis told RockedBuzz via Reuters in an interview.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was due to speak at the forum later Wednesday, although it is thought his government will likely wait until later in the week to unveil any decisions on tanks. Even the Ukrainian Zelenskiy should have addressed Davos via video link.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Moscow sees no prospect of peace talks and that there could be no negotiations with Zelenskiy. Russia has said talks are possible only if Ukraine recognizes Moscow’s claims to Ukrainian territory; Kiev says it will fight until Russia withdraws from all of Ukraine.
In his remarks, Lavrov compared the West’s approach to Russia to Hitler’s “Final Solution,” the Holocaust plot to kill all of Europe’s Jews. Lavrov was criticized by Israel last year for saying that Hitler was part Jewish and that the worst anti-Semites were Jews, after being asked why Moscow portrays Zelenskiy, who has Jewish roots, as a Nazi.
In the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the civilian death toll from a missile that hit an apartment building on Saturday has risen to 45, including six children, including an 11-month-old baby, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian authorities suspended the search for survivors. About 20 other people are still missing in the rubble after the attack, the deadliest for civilians in a three-month Russian missile-bombing campaign against cities far from the front lines.
Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians. Last year it launched what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine, saying Kiev’s ties to the West pose a security threat.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes in what Kiev and the West are calling an unprovoked invasion to subdue Ukraine and seize its land. (This story was re-archived to correct the attribution to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister in paragraph 18)
(Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Angus MacSwan)