(Brovary) Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky was killed on Wednesday near Kyiv in the crash of his helicopter that killed at least 14 people, including a child from a kindergarten, while traveling to the front line in the middle of the war with Russia.
The aircraft, a Super Puma EC-225 (Airbus Helicopters, ex-Eurocopter) according to the State Service for Emergency Situations (SES) to which it belonged, crashed at 8:20 a.m. in Brovary, near Kyiv. “The kindergarten building was hit, and the fire then spread to the windows of a building with fourteen floors and three cars,” said the SES on Telegram, adding that there were 9 people at on board the aircraft, including the minister and his deputy.
According to a latest assessment of the SES revised downwards at the beginning of the afternoon, there are 14 dead including a child, and 25 hospitalized wounded including 11 children. The clearing of the rubble was still in progress.
A previous report had reported 18 dead, including three children.
This crash, which occurred four times a Russian missile strike that killed 45 people in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, aroused great emotion.
“Unspeakable Pain” by Zelensky
“Our grief is unspeakable,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an online message, referring both to the fact that the crash affected a kindergarten and the death of Interior Minister, his deputy Yevgeny Yenine and the Interior Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych.
He said he ordered an investigation into the causes of the crash.
Ukraine’s security services said they were considering all avenues, including “deliberate destructive action”. The German Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, offered Kyiv the “support” of Berlin in these investigations.
On the spot, you could see the charred remains of the helicopter leaning against the blackened facade of an apartment building, partially crushing a car, and the partially destroyed kindergarten building, around which the emergency services were still busy.
“I called a friend who lives there. He told me that something had fallen on the nursery school, that he had helped three six-seven-year-old children out and taken care of them, “said a teenager on the antenna of the Ukrainian channel Sulpine.
“He told me to come, we helped clear cars to allow help to arrive,” he added.
“The purpose of this flight (was to go) to one of the hot spots in our country where the fighting is taking place,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff to the president, told Ukrainian television. Different sources claimed that the aircraft was going to Dnipro, or to the Kharkiv region (north-east).
Ukrainian officials, like Prime Minister Denys Chmygal on Telegram, called the death of Denys Monastyrsky, 42, a former lawyer who joined Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, a “great loss”.
Condolences from Westerners
Ganna Malyar, the Deputy Minister of Defense who indicated having known him for a long time, described a man representative of the new generation of officials brought to power with him by President Zelensky.
In this country which has long been marked by the Soviet heritage, “he was the first Minister of the Interior for whom the supreme value was the person and his rights”, she said.
The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, lamented on Twitter the death of “a great friend of the EU”.
French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the British Prime Minister’s Office, the United States Embassy in particular expressed their condolences to Ukraine.
Russia, which made no comment, continued at the same time to exert its pressure, both on the eastern front of the country where its army is trying to regain the advantage, and through declarations from the Kremlin or its spokespersons.
Putin has ‘no doubts’
President Vladimir Putin thus assured on Wednesday that he had “no doubt” about a Russian victory which is “guaranteed”, almost a year after the start of the Russian operation on Ukrainian territory.
He maintained that Russia was facing a “neo-Nazi regime” in Ukraine and said it would continue to “help” the population of the separatist East of Ukraine, during a visit to an arms factory in Saint- Petersburg.
His Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, went even further, comparing the actions of Western countries against his country to the Nazi regime’s “final solution” to exterminate the Jews.
“Just as Napoleon mobilized almost all of Europe against the Russian Empire, just as Hitler mobilized and conquered most European countries to launch them against the Soviet Union, today the United States has assembled a coalition” against Moscow, said Mr. Lavrov, during a press conference.
Their task is “the same: the ‘final solution’ to the Russian question. Just as Hitler wanted to solve the Jewish question, now Western leaders […] unambiguously say that Russia must suffer a strategic defeat,” he added.
These statements come nearly 11 months after the launch of the offensive in Ukraine, where Russian forces have suffered several major setbacks in recent months.
Faced with these difficulties on the ground, Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilization of 300,000 reservists and a campaign to bomb Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.