At least 18 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister, have been killed in a helicopter crash outside the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, authorities said Wednesday, in what President Volodymyr Zelensky has called a “terrible tragedy.”
The aircraft fell near a kindergarten in the town of Brovary, some 20 kilometers northeast of Kyiv, while children and staff were inside the building, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office. Eyewitness footage from the aftermath shows a massive fire raging at the crash site.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, who was onboard the helicopter with other ministry officials, was killed in the crash, Ukrainian national police chief Igor Klymenko said in a statement on social media.
Monastyrsky’s first deputy Yevhen Yenin and the ministry’s State Secretary Yuriy Lubkovych were also killed.
Fifteen other people were killed, including three children, according to a Telegram post by the head of the Kyiv regional administration, Oleksiy Kuleba.
At least 29 people, 15 of whom are children, have been hospitalized with injuries, Kuleba said.
The Ukrainian presidency said the helicopter had been flying toward frontline regions in eastern Ukraine when it crashed.
“The purpose of the helicopter flight was to carry out work in one of the hotspots of our country where hostilities are ongoing. The interior minister was heading there,” the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said on local television.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said it was considering sabotage, equipment malfunction, or violation of safety rules as possible causes.
Zelensky said he has instructed the SBU state security service, the Ukrainian national police, and other authorized agencies to determine the circumstances of the crash.
In a statement on social media, Zelensky said the crash was a “terrible tragedy” and called Monastyrsky, Yenin and Lubkovych “true patriots of Ukraine.”
Western officials offered condolences to Ukraine over the fatal crash.
“Shocked and saddened by the terrible news from Brovary,” U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv Bridget Brink tweeted.
“We join Ukraine in grief following the tragic helicopter accident,” European Union chief Charles Michel said in a message posted to social media, calling Monastyrsky “a great friend of the EU.”
Russian and Ukrainian forces fought for control of Brovary during the early stages of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine until Russian troops withdrew in early April.
The crash comes days after a Russian missile hit a residential building in the central-eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro, killing at least 45 people, including six children.
AFP contributed reporting.