Ukraine’s interior minister, other top officials killed in helicopter crash

Workers in dark blue winter jackets walk past helicopter wreckage that damaged the front of a building
Workers clear part of the wreckage after a helicopter crashed in a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Jan. 18, 2023.
(Daniel Cole / Associated Press)

A helicopter carrying Ukraine’s interior minister crashed into a kindergarten in a foggy residential suburb of Kyiv on Wednesday, killing him and about a dozen other people, including a child on the ground, authorities said.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, who oversaw Ukraine’s police and emergency services, is the most senior official to die since Russia invaded nearly 11 months ago. The crash, which also killed the rest of his ministry’s leadership and the entire helicopter crew, was the second calamity in five days to befall Ukraine, after a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro, killing dozens of civilians.

There was no immediate word on whether the incident in the capital’s eastern suburb of Brovary was an accident or related to the war, but Ukrainian authorities immediately opened an investigation. No fighting has been reported recently in the Kyiv area.


President Volodymyr Zelensky — addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by video link — said the crash had a broad connection to the war.

“This is not an accident because it has been due to war and the war has many dimensions, not just on the battlefields,” he said after asking the Davos audience to join him in standing for a minute of silence to honor those killed. “There are no accidents at wartime. These are all war results.”

Ukraine’s State Emergency Service, which was operating the French-manufactured Super Puma helicopter, said at least 14 people were killed, including nine people who were aboard the aircraft and one child on the ground. It said 25 people have been injured, including 11 children. Early official reports gave different casualty figures.

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At the scene of the crash and ensuing fire, plastic sheets covered at least four bodies. Workers cleared charred and mangled wreckage lying against an apartment building and in the kindergarten’s playground. Some walls were partly demolished and blackened. The helicopter’s blackened rotors protruded from a destroyed car and rested atop a building’s entrance.

Kyiv regional Gov. Oleksiy Kuleba told Ukrainian television that emergency services were still identifying remains recovered and that the death toll could rise.

The crash killed five Interior Ministry officials, one national police official and all three helicopter crew members, the Ukraine National Police said. Monastyrsky’s deputy Yevhen Yenin and Yurii Lubkovych, the state secretary in the ministry, were among the dead, the police said.


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Monastyrsky, 42, was in charge of police and emergency services that dealt with the consequences of Russian strikes and with de-mining, political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told the Associated Press.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ihor Klymenko, the national police chief, has been appointed acting interior minister.

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Senior officials have routinely traveled by helicopter at low altitudes and high speed during the conflict, and the tragedy may prompt Kyiv to institute a rule adopted by many European countries that bars top officials from flying on the same aircraft, Fesenko said.

The officials on the helicopter were due to visit Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, local police chief Volodymyr Tymoshko said, adding on Facebook that they were not just leaders, but also friends whom he respected.

The helicopter was sold to Ukraine in 2019, a French defense official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be identified, according to ministry policy.

The Security Service of Ukraine is investigating “all possible versions” of the crash, Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin said on the messaging app Telegram.

The crash came at a particularly dark period for Ukraine, just days after the Russian strike Saturday on the apartment building in the southeast killed 45 people, including six children — the deadliest attack on civilians since the spring.

“The pain is unspeakable,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.

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“Another very sad day today — new losses,” said his wife, Olena Zelenska, dabbing teary eyes as she responded to the news at the economic conference in Davos, where she was mustering support for Ukraine.

White House National Security Council spokesman John F. Kirby called the crash “heartbreaking.”

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman called Monastyrsky “a leading light in supporting the Ukrainian people during [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s illegal invasion.” She said she was “struck by his determination, optimism and patriotism.”


German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is facing pressure to send tanks to Ukraine, tweeted that the crash “shows once again the huge price that Ukraine is having to pay in this war.”

Meanwhile, Putin on Wednesday again defended the invasion of Ukraine, offering a variation on arguments he has used previously. The Russian leader told a gathering of veterans that Moscow’s actions were intended to stop a “war” that has raged since 2014 in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists have battled Ukrainian forces.

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“All [of] what 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 in those territories,” he said.

Ukraine and its Western allies have rejected Russia’s justifications, saying that Kyiv posed no threat to Moscow and that the invasion was unprovoked.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that the goals behind the invasion are “determined by Russia’s core legitimate interests.”

“There must be no military infrastructure in Ukraine that poses a direct threat to our country,” Lavrov said at his annual news conference. He claimed that the goal of Ukraine’s Western allies is to use the conflict to exhaust Russia.


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Fighting continues in eastern Ukraine around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby salt-mining town of Soledar, Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

Fourteen cities and villages were shelled in the partially occupied Donetsk region over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said. Two civilians were wounded.

It added that Russian forces also shelled residential areas of the southern city of Kherson, which was retaken by Kyiv’s military in November. Four people were wounded.