Ukraine Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, 42, was killed along with 14 others after a helicopter crashed near a nursery outside Kyiv, Ukrainian officials said. A total of 15 people were killed, with all nine on board, including Monastyrsky, perishing in the horrific crash. The six others killed were on the ground.
This includes three children who were in the nursery at the time of the crash. Videos posted on social media show huge flames with smoke billowing from the crash chopper as rescue workers try to get control of the fire. Monastyrsky's first deputy Yevhen Yenin, and state secretary Yurii Lubkovych were also killed in the crash.
Fire, Smoke and Bodies
The plane crashed adjacent to a kindergarten and a residential structure in Brovary, a commuter town for the capital Kyiv to the northeast that saw severe fighting early in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The minister was on his way to a "hot area" in a conflict when his chopper crashed, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office. Although witnesses claimed that Russia's conflict was to blame for the catastrophe, there is no evidence to suggest that the crash was anything other than an accident.
"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 TV.
Monastyrskyi was the most senior Ukrainian politician to have died since the war with Russia began over 11 months ago. An official with the Interior Ministry Anton Gerashchenko verified his death and the deaths of the other officials, and he suggested that Russian sabotage may have been to blame for the crash.
"It was very foggy and there was no electricity, and when there's no electricity there are no lights on the buildings," local resident Volodymyr told the BBC.
Videos posted online appear to show the burned wreckage of the plane mingled with building debris from the area and a car that had been plowed under by big metal fragments. At the site, which was completely destroyed by fire, cries could be heard.
Also, the charred bodies of those on board the helicopter can be seen in several images posted online.
Another video taken inside the nursery showed the floor covered in trash and burned walls. The air was still thick with smoke, and windows had been blown out.
Oleksiy Kuleba, the governor of the Kyiv area, estimated the accident's final death toll at 18, including three children. "There is information about 29 wounded, including 15 children. All necessary assistance is provided to them. Rescue operations are ongoing at the site," he said.
The interior minister, 42, was a well-known official in President Volodymyr Zelensky's government. He was instrumental in keeping the public informed about the number of people killed by Russian missile attacks since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The accident was described as "a terrible tragedy" by president Volodymyr Zelensky. Later in the day, as the Ukrainian delegation presses for more armaments from global friends, he is due to deliver a video address in Davos.
Zelensky's wife and First Lady Olena Zelenska is in Davos to speak at a World Economic Forum session in the Swiss resort town.
"Today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kyiv region. A SES (state emergency services) helicopter crashed, and a fire broke out at the crash site," Zelensky said in a statement on social media.
"I have instructed the Security Service of Ukraine, in cooperation with the National Police of Ukraine and other authorized bodies, to find out all the circumstances of what happened. As of this minute, 3 children died. The pain is unspeakable," he wrote, offering his condolences to the victims' friends and families.
Zelenska was about to speak at the World Economic Forum when she got the news of the crash. A teary-eyed Zelenska said, "Another very sad day today - new losses."
"I think you understand my emotions. Perhaps they're a little bit out of place in the political and economic dialogue, but I am sure that just as the war has changed the whole world, it has also changed all of our dialogue.
"We can also change this negative situation for the better," she added, after forum President Borge Brende had requested 15 seconds of silence to honor those killed.
Russian and Ukrainian forces struggled for control of Brovary in the early phases of Moscow's invasion up until the withdrawal of Russian soldiers in early April. On February 24 of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched troops to pro-Western Ukraine.
Russia did not respond right afterward, and at the time, Ukrainian officials made no mention of any Russian attacks in the region.