This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
A Ukrainian helicopter has crashed near a kindergarten and a residential building just outside of Kyiv, leaving 14 dead, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy and other senior ministry officials, as well as one child in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called “a terrible tragedy.”
The death toll had previously been put as high as 18 by some officials, but the State Emergency Services (SES) said in a statement later on January 18 that the toll had been revised down, including to only one child death from a previously reported three. children.
According to the revised toll, 25 people were injured, including 11 children, in the crash in the town of Brovary, about 20 kilometers northeast of the capital.
Monastyrskiy’s first deputy minister, Yevhen Yenin, and State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych were also among the dead.
Ihor Klymenko, the chief of Ukraine’s police, said nine of those killed were aboard the emergency-services helicopter.
It was not immediately known if the crash was caused by an accident or if it was a consequence of the war. Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Monastyrskiy, said that an investigation had been opened into the incident.
There was no immediate comment from Moscow and Ukrainian officials made no reference to any Russian attack in the area at the time.
But the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said investigators were focusing on three possible causes for the crash: a violation of flight rules, the technical malfunction of the helicopter, or deliberate actions to destroy the vehicle. The SBU did not elaborate on the third potential cause.
A spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, said the helicopter was a Super Puma supplied by France.
A French defense official quoted by the AP news agency said the helicopter was sold to Kyiv in 2019 and was not part of equipment that France has provided since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2021.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be named, according to ministry policy.
Monastyrskiy is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died since the start of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. A trained lawyer and a key member of Zelenskiy’s party, the 42-year-old had served as interior minister from July 2021.
“Today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kyiv region. An [emergency services] helicopter crashed, and a fire broke out at the crash site. The pain is unspeakable,” Zelenskiy said in a statement on Facebook.
European Council President Charles Michel decried the deaths, calling Monastyrskiy “a great friend of the EU.”
“We join Ukraine in grief following the tragic helicopter accident,” the president of the European Council said in a message posted on Twitter.
The incident came as Russian forces kept focusing their offensive efforts on Bakhmut in the eastern region of Donetsk and as Kyiv again urged its Western allies to speed up approval for the delivery of advanced heavy weaponry including modern tanks.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its daily report that Bakhmut and Avdiyivka, where heavy fighting has been going on for months, remained Moscow’s main targets in Donetsk, while the settlement of Bilohoryvka in the neighboring Luhansk region has also come under intensified attacks over the past 24 hours.
Russian troops carried out six missile strikes over the same interval, three of which hit civilian infrastructure targets in the cities of Kupyansk and Kramatorsk, as well as 14 air strikes and 95 rocket system salvoes, the General Staff said.
It also warned that the threat of Russian air and missile strikes on civilian objects remains high throughout Ukraine.
Over the past several months, Russia has relentlessly targeted civilian settlements and energy infrastructure networks, leaving millions of Ukrainians in the dark and cold in the middle of winter.
More than 9,000 civilians, including 453 children, have been killed since the war began last February, Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential staff, told the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss resort of Davos on January 17. The United Nations has put the civilian toll at more than 7,000.
As Kyiv pressed the need for increased supplies of Western arms, U.S. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, met with General Valeriy Zaluzhniy, Ukraine’s military chief, at a base near Poland’s border with Ukraine.
The meeting came ahead of a gathering of Western allies in Germany to discuss giving Ukraine offensive armaments such as tanks, a major request of leaders in Kyiv.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is due in Berlin on January 19 and will then host a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group the following day at the U.S. military base in Ramstein to discuss further support — including military aid — for Ukraine with allies.
Kyiv has been long pushing for tanks and armored vehicles that will help it penetrate Russia’s front lines.
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at his annual news conference on January 18 that the Kremlin will achieve its objectives in Ukraine despite what he said was a “hybrid war” waged by the West against Russia.
Lavrov said Russia saw no prospects of peace talks and there could be no negotiations with Zelenskiy.
Moscow has said talks are possible only if Kyiv recognizes Russia’s claims to parts of Ukrainian territory, while Ukraine says it will not stop fighting until all its lands are liberated.