At least 14 people were killed in a helicopter crash near a kindergarten in the Kyiv region, including Ukraine’s interior ministry leadership team who were on board, officials said.
Another 25 people, including 11 children, were injured in the incident in the city of Brovary on Wednesday, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SES) said.
Emergency services have lowered the death toll in the crash on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital from the previous figure of 18.
According to the latest information, 14 bodies were found at the crash site, including a child and all nine people on board the helicopter – six government officials and three crew members.
SES said on Wednesday afternoon that the search and rescue operation at the crash site had ended.
The Ukrainian National Police confirmed the deaths of Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevheniy Yenin and State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovychis.
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has opened an investigation into the crash and posted a message on Facebook that “multiple versions of the tragedy are being considered.”
Among them: “violations of flight rules, technical failure of the helicopter (and) deliberate destruction of the helicopter.”
No other Ukrainian official has suggested that Russia was involved in the crash. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the incident as a “tragedy”.
A CNN team on the ground in the Kyiv region noticed gray skies and very low visibility.
The helicopter that crashed was a Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma, CNN staff confirmed after seeing remnants of the flight manual among the debris.
SES said the helicopter “was involved in the transport of personnel to emergency locations on several occasions”.
A statement posted by SES on Facebook added: “The crew of the aircraft were trained to perform the mission in difficult conditions and had the required number of flight hours.”
Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, said earlier that the plane landed near a kindergarten and a residential building.
“There were children and staff in the kindergarten when the tragedy happened. At this moment, everyone was evacuated,” he wrote on Telegram.
Mayor Brovary Ihor Sapozhko declared Thursday, Friday and Saturday the three official days of mourning.
“A dark day… the pain of loss cannot be expressed in words,” Sapozhko said in a post on Telegram. “Sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Zelensky asked attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos to observe a minute’s silence for all those killed in Russia’s war with Ukraine.
In a written statement, Zelensky called the crash “a terrible tragedy,” adding that he had ordered Ukraine’s security services to “find out all the circumstances.”
Zelensky concluded his speech by saying that Interior Ministry officials were “true Ukrainian patriots.” May they rest in peace! May all those who lost their lives on this dark morning rest in peace! ”
The officials are believed to be the highest-ranking government officials to die since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.
Monastyrsky, 42, is a lawyer by training. He taught law and management for several years at a university in his hometown of Khmelnytsky before deciding to “turn from theory to practice” and dabble in politics, according to a biography published on the ministry’s website.
He worked on reforming Ukraine’s law enforcement following the 2014 EU protest revolution, and was promoted and appointed interior minister in July 2021.
Last year, Monastyrsky accompanied a CNN crew on a tour of Russia’s abandoned military position at Chernobyl.
News of Monastyrsky’s death prompted a strong reaction from many of his peers and other foreign leaders.
“Sadden by the tragic death of Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky. Thoughts go out to all victims, children and families of this terrible incident near the kindergarten,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted road.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called Monasterski a “true friend of Britain”.
European Council President Charles Michel also hailed Monastirski as a “good friend of the EU”. Michel tweeted that the EU and Ukraine “felt saddened after the tragic helicopter accident in Brovari”.
According to the website of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ye Ning, 42 years old, served as the Deputy Prosecutor General and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, and then became Monastersky’s first deputy in September 2021.
Lubkovychis, 33, was appointed to the ministry in 2021, along with the other two.