Helicopter crash kills Ukrainian interior minister, others

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At least 18 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister and three children, have been killed in a helicopter crash near a nursery outside the capital, Kyiv.

Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yurii Lubkovych were among those killed on Wednesday, according to Ihor Klymenko, chief of Ukraine’s National Police.

It was unclear what caused the helicopter to crash in the town of Brovary, a commuter town that was the scene of fierce fighting early in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The State regional governor said 29 people were also hurt, including 15 children. “There were children and staff in the nursery at the time of this tragedy,” Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on Telegram.

It was not immediately clear what caused the helicopter to crash in the town of Brovary, a commuter town that was the scene of fierce fighting early in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Klymenko from Ukraine’s police service said earlier that nine of those killed were on board the helicopter when it crashed. A reporter from Kyiv said the deaths were a huge blow to the country on a government level.

“This is Ukraine’s interior minister, one of the highest posts in the country; his deputy. These are key figures in Ukraine’s government when the government is at war with Russia, so this will be a huge blow to the country, no doubt. You can only imagine some conversations happening right now, in Kyiv in those government circles, what’s going to happen next,” Butler said.

Monastyrskyy, 42, responsible for the police and security inside Ukraine, would be the most senior Ukrainian official to die since the war began. A trained lawyer, he has served as Ukraine’s interior minister since July 2021. He was a key member of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s party and was married with two children.

“My colleagues, my friends. What a tragic loss. The deepest condolences to their families,” said Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser.

Peter Zalmayev, the analyst at the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, told Al Jazeera that poor visibility in Brovary may have been a factor behind the crash of the helicopter. “However, the incident was very suspicious; I would not rule out a terrorist act by the Russian Federation,” he said.

Helicopter pilots know the area they fly in and the potential obstacles regardless of weather, according to Zalmayev. The Ukrainian government also avoided commenting on the mission, which required senior interior ministry officials on board the helicopter.

Aviation accidents are fairly common in Ukraine, where the use of aging and sometimes Soviet-era infrastructure is still common. In one of the deadliest recent incidents, 26 people, most of them air cadets, were killed when their Antonov-26 plane crashed near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in September 2020.

The town of Brovary is located some 20km (12 miles) northeast of Kyiv and was among the urban hubs around the capital that Russian troops had tried to capture after invading Ukraine last year.

Regions around the capital are no longer the scene of fierce fighting after Russian forces were pushed back. Still, a series of Russian missile strikes have disrupted power supplies across the country, including in the Kyiv region.