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Ukrainian interior minister killed in helicopter crash near Kyiv

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Ukrainian interior minister killed in helicopter crash near Kyiv

  • Helicopter crashed in fog near nursery, started fire
  • One child in 14 confirmed deaths
  • Interior minister and two senior officials killed

BROVARY, Ukraine, Jan. 18 (Reuters) – Fourteen people, including Ukraine’s interior minister and a child, were killed on Wednesday when a helicopter crashed in fog near a daycare center outside Kyiv, in what was president Volodymyr Zelenskiy called a “terrible tragedy”.

Several bodies lay on the floor of a courtyard, their boots sticking out from under the covers, after the helicopter – described by the air force spokesman as a French Super Puma – crashed into a building in Brovary, northeast of the capital.

The crash started a major fire and an entire side of the local daycare building was charred. The governor of the Kiev region said children and staff were in the nursery shortly after 08:00 (06:00 GMT) at the time of the crash.

Officials said it was too early to know what caused the crash. No one spoke of an attack by Russian troops waging war in Ukraine.

“We saw injured people, we saw children. There was a lot of fog here, everything was scattered everywhere. We could hear screaming, we ran towards them,” says Hlib, a 17-year-old local resident.

“We took the kids and led them over the fence away from the nursery because it was on fire, especially the second floor,” he said near the nursery, where people left flowers and stuffed animals at a small makeshift memorial.

The chief of the national police confirmed that Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi had been killed, along with his first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and the ministry’s deputy secretary. Monastyrskyi was 42 and had been interior minister since July 2021.

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Hours after the crash, the government appointed the chief of the national police, Ihor Klymenko, as acting interior minister.

The Rijkshulpdienst estimated the death toll at 14, including the three helicopter crews and six others on board. A child was killed on the ground and 11 other children were among the 25 injured, it said. The agency had previously reported a higher toll, which it adjusted downward without explanation.

Vitaliy, a 56-year-old resident, said he saw the helicopter quickly fall and crash into the nursery grounds in the middle of a residential courtyard. The debris continued its way into a nearby apartment building, he said.

The wreckage of the helicopter later lay crumpled near an apartment building, its rotor blades resting against the entrance.

Above the charred entrance to the two-story nursery was a gaping hole several feet wide.

“There was no explosion. I thought it was the engine of a rocket or something like that, something really big, about 10 meters high,” said Vitaliy.

Describing a big fire that broke out then, he said, “It even got hot in the room I was in,” he said. “Of course it was scary.”

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“Today a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, in the Kiev region,” Zelenskiy told the Telegram messaging app. “The pain is unspeakable.”

The SBU State Security Service said it is investigating and considering several possible causes for the crash, including a violation of flight rules, a technical malfunction and the deliberate destruction of the helicopter.

Two witnesses reported seeing an object hurtling toward the nursery from the northwest.

“It was about the height of the houses…those nine stories. It was very low and I could see red colors on it,” said one woman.

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The crash was another blow to Ukraine, days after 45 people died in an apartment building hit during a Russian missile strike on the east-central city of Dnipro.

Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said it could take at least several weeks to investigate the disaster.

British Home Secretary Suella Braverman called Monastyrskyi “a leading light in supporting the Ukrainian people” during the Russian invasion and said she was struck by his determination, optimism and patriotism.

Reporting by Max Hunder in Brovary and Tom Balmforth in Kiev; Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Edited by Timothy Heritage

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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