Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “nothing happened in wartime” after a helicopter crash in the capital Kyiv killed 14 people.
Ukraine has not claimed that Russia was involved, but Zelensky told the World Economic Forum in Davos that the tragedy was the result of war.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, 42, died along with his First Deputy Minister and Secretary of State.
The helicopter crashed near a nursery at around 8:30 a.m. local time.
One of the 14 people killed was a child, authorities said.
There is no indication that the crash was not an accident.
But the SBU national security unit said it was tracking several possible causes for the crash, which included sabotage as well as technical failure or a violation of flight rules.
Leading officials routinely fly helicopters through the trees over Ukraine to avoid detection, but that comes with risks.
The national emergency service first said as many as 18 people had been killed, but later revised the death toll from the crash to 14.
The only identifiable features of the helicopter are a door panel and a rotor resting on the roof of the car. Next to it were three bodies wrapped in foil blankets.
Monastirsky was one of Zelensky’s longest-serving political advisers and the most high-profile Ukrainian casualty since the war began.
His death touched the heart of the Kyiv government, as the Ministry of the Interior has the important task of maintaining security and managing the police during the war.
He was a familiar face to Ukrainians throughout the war, briefing the public on the casualties of Russian missile strikes since the Ukrainian invasion in February 2022.
Kirillo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said the minister had been flown by helicopter to “hot spots” of the war.
Volodymyr Tymoshko, the police chief in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, said a ministerial team was on his way to meet him there, with whom he spoke only yesterday.
Following Monastyrsky’s death, Ihor Klymenko, head of Ukraine’s national police force, was appointed acting interior minister.
Tymoshenko said the interior ministry’s work would not be affected by the departure of its leader, but government colleagues were visibly shocked as they reacted on state television.
A friend of the late minister, MP Mariia Mezentseva, said it was a tragedy for everyone because the ministry played a major role in Ukraine’s response to the invasion.
“He was responsive 24/7 to colleagues, friends and family. He was very close to President Zelensky from day one of the presidential campaign,” she told the BBC.
Other officials killed in the crash included Monastirski’s aide Tetiana Shutiak, First Deputy Minister Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary Yuri Lubkovich, whose The task is to organize the work of the Ministry.
Yenin helped represent the Ukrainian government abroad before being transferred to the Interior Ministry.
US President Joe Biden expressed his condolences to all those killed in the crash.
The parents were taking their children to work at the kindergarten when the helicopter crashed.
“The pain is unspeakable,” Zelensky said. “The helicopter landed on the territory of one of the kindergartens.”
Many wounded are on the ground. In addition to the children who were killed, 11 of the 25 people injured on the ground were teenagers.
Witnesses in Kyiv said the war in Russia was to blame for the disaster.
Local resident Volodymyr Yermelenko told the BBC: “There was a lot of fog, there was no electricity, and when there was no electricity there were no lights on the buildings.”
Other witnesses said the pilot tried to avoid high-rise buildings before crashing and instead fell near a kindergarten.
A local woman told the BBC she saw the terrifying flash of light as the helicopter circled over her home. She said the pilot apparently tried to avoid her 10-story apartment building and opted to move closer to smaller buildings.
“Parents were running around, screaming. It was panic,” said Lydia, a local volunteer. Emergency services and residents quickly evacuated children as the fire spread to the nursery building.
Another resident, Dmytro, described jumping over a fence to help children out. One of the girls he picked up was named Polina, but when her father ran up to call her name, he didn’t recognize her because her face was covered in blood.
Just four days ago, Ukraine suffered one of the worst attacks since the war began, killing 45 civilians.
A Russian missile hit an apartment building in the central city of Dnipro, killing 45 people, including six children.