A helicopter crash near a kindergarten in the Kyiv region killed at least 14 people, including the Ukrainian Interior Ministry leadership team who were on board, according to officials.
Another 25 people, including 11 children, were injured in the aftermath of the accident, which took place in Brovary city Wednesday, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES) said.
The emergency service has lowered the death toll from the plane crash on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital – the previous death toll was 18.
According to updated information, 14 bodies have been found at the crash site, including one child and all nine people on board the helicopter – six ministry officials and three crew members.
SES said Wednesday afternoon that search and rescue operations had ended at the crash site.
The Ukrainian National Police confirmed the deaths of Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevgeny Yenin and State Minister Yury Lobkovitchis.
The Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) launched an investigation into the incident, posting on Facebook that “several versions of the tragedy are being considered”.
They include: “Violation of flight rules, technical malfunction of the helicopter (and) deliberate actions to destroy the helicopter.”
There was no indication from any other Ukrainian officials about Russia’s involvement in this incident. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the incident as a “tragedy”.
A CNN team on the ground in the Kyiv region observed gray skies and very low visibility.
The CNN crew, after seeing remnants of flight evidence among the wreckage, confirmed that the crashed helicopter was a Eurocopter EC225 Super Puma.
SES said this helicopter was “repeatedly involved in the transfer of personnel to emergency sites.”
The SES statement, posted on Facebook, added: “The flight crew were trained to perform tasks in difficult conditions and had the required number of flying hours.”
Oleksey Kuleba, head of the Kyiv regional military administration, said earlier that the plane went down near a kindergarten and an apartment building.
At the time of the tragedy, there were children and employees of the kindergarten. At the moment everyone has been evacuated,” he wrote on Telegram.
Brovary Mayor Ihor Sapojko declared three official days of mourning, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“A dark day… there are no words to express the pain of loss,” Sapozhko said in a post on Telegram. “My sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims.”
On Wednesday afternoon Zelensky asked attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos to observe a minute’s silence for all those who lost their lives in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In a written statement, Zelensky called the incident a “terrible tragedy”, adding that he had ordered Ukraine’s security services to “know all the circumstances”.
Zelensky ended his statement by saying that the Interior Ministry officials are “true patriots of Ukraine. May they rest in peace! May all those whose lives were taken on this dark morning rest in peace!”
The officials are believed to be the most senior government figures killed since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.
Monastyrsky, 42, was a lawyer by training. According to a biography posted on the ministry’s website, he spent a few years teaching law and administration at a university in his hometown of Khmelnytskyi, before deciding to switch “from theory to practice” and get involved in politics.
He worked on reforming Ukrainian law enforcement in the aftermath of the Euromaidan Revolution of 2014, rising through the ranks and being appointed Minister of the Interior in July 2021.
Last year, Monastyrsky accompanied a CNN crew on a visit to Abandoned Russian military sites in Chernobyl.
The news of Monastyrsky’s death sparked a wave of reactions from many of his peers and other foreign leaders.
“Sad for the tragic death of Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky. Thoughts for all the victims of this terrible event that happened near a kindergarten, for children and families,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly described Monastyrsky as “a true friend of the United Kingdom”.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, also hailed Monastirsky as a “great friend of the European Union”. Michel tweeted that the EU joins Ukraine “in grief after the helicopter crash in Brovary”.
Yenin, also 42, served as deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine and deputy foreign minister before becoming Monastyrsky’s first deputy in September 2021, according to the ministry’s website.
Lubkovicis was 33 and, like the two other men, was appointed to the ministry in 2021.