By Max Hunder and Tom Balmforth
BROVARY, Ukraine (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Ukraine’s interior minister and a child are among at least 14 people killed on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed into a kindergarten and set it on fire in a suburb of the capital Kiev.
Separately, Ukraine said its forces have again blunted Russian attempts to advance on the frontline town of Bakhmut hundreds of kilometers (miles) away to the east, where both sides suffered heavy losses for little gain. in trench warfare since November.
Ukrainian officials said it was too early to determine what caused the helicopter crash. No one immediately spoke of an attack by Russia, which invaded Ukraine last February and since October has hit Ukrainian cities often far from the front with missiles almost daily.
Dozens of people were injured, including children, many of whom suffered burns, after the French-made Super Puma helicopter crashed in fog in Brovary on the eastern outskirts of Kiev, crashing into the nursery.
Ukraine’s state emergency services said a total of 14 people were killed. Government agencies had previously published a higher death toll, up to 18.
Among the dead was Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, who was aboard the helicopter. He was the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die since the war began.
Since Ukraine recaptured significant territory in the east and south in the second half of 2022, front lines have stiffened and Kiev says new Western weapons, especially heavy tanks, are vital to regain momentum this year.
Western allies are set to gather at a US airbase in Germany on Friday to offer more weapons to Ukraine. The focus is particularly on Germany, which has veto power over any decision to send its Leopard tanks, deployed by NATO allied armies across Europe and widely considered best suited to Ukraine.
Germany will not allow allies to ship German-made tanks to Ukraine to aid its defense against Russia or send their own systems unless the United States agrees to send its own tanks, Wall Street reported Wednesday Journal, citing senior German officials.
Residents at the scene of the helicopter crash described a frantic rescue.
“We saw injured people, we saw children. There was a lot of fog here, everything was scattered all around. We could hear screams, we ran towards them,” Hlib, a 17-year-old local resident, told RockedBuzz via Reuters. “We took the kids and put them over the fence, away from the kindergarten because it was on fire.”
The entire side of the nursery building was charred, with a gaping hole above the entrance, where the rotor blades of the helicopter rested. Nearby, debris was strewn across a muddy playground and the wreckage of the helicopter lay crumpled by an apartment building.
Several dead men lay in a courtyard, wearing blue uniforms and black boots visible from under the aluminum blankets draped over the bodies.
Vitaliy, 56, said he saw the plane rapidly drop and crash onto the grounds of the kindergarten before debris was hurled further into the apartment building. “I thought it was a rocket engine,” he said.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ordered an investigation into what he called a “terrible tragedy”.
“The pain is unspeakable,” she said in a statement.
Monastyrskyi died along with his first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and other ministry officials while flying on the state emergency service helicopter.
Ukraine’s SBU state security service said it would consider possible causes, including a violation of flight rules, a technical malfunction or intentional destruction.
Western leaders sent their condolences and paid tribute to Monastyrskyi, 42, a lawyer and lawmaker. US President Joe Biden expressed condolences to the families of the victims of the crash and said the US would honor Monastyrskyi with an ongoing commitment to preserve Ukrainian democracy.
ZELENSKIY AT THE DAVOS FORUM
In a video link address to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Zelenskiy said Western supplies of tanks and air defense systems to ward off Russia’s missile attack campaign should arrive faster and be delivered faster than Moscow is capable of. to carry out attacks.
“The supply of air defense systems to Ukraine must overcome Russia’s next missile attacks,” Zelenskiy said. “Western tank supplies must overcome another Russian tank invasion.”
In the latest announcement of new aid, Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand visited Kiev on Wednesday and pledged 200 Senator armored vehicles.
Polish President Andrzej Duda told the Davos rally he feared Russia was preparing a new offensive into Ukraine within months and it was therefore crucial to provide further support to Kiev with modern tanks and missiles.
Poland and Finland have already said they will send Pardi if Germany approves them. Berlin says a decision will be the first item on the agenda for Boris Pistorius, who was named Germany’s new defense minister earlier this week.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, visiting an air defense factory in St. Petersburg, said Russia’s military-industrial might means “victory is assured, I have no doubts about that”.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow sees no prospects for peace talks and 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.
(Writing by Peter Graff, Mark Heinrich and Grant McCool; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alexandra Hudson;)