A helicopter crashed into a kindergarten and started a fire in a Kyiv suburb, killing at least 14 people, including Ukraine’s interior minister and a child.
Twenty-five people were injured, including eleven children.
The crash occurred four days after the deadliest attack on civilians in months. A Russian missile struck an apartment building in Dnipro, killing dozens of people, including six children.
So far, this is what we’ve discovered.
WHO WAS THERE, AND WHY WERE THEY THERE?
According to Ukrainian authorities, the helicopter carried five interior ministry officials, one national police official, and three crew members. The crash killed all nine of them.
One of them is Denys Monastyrskyi, 42, the former head of the country’s police and emergency services. He was the highest-ranking official to die since Russia’s invasion nearly 11 months ago. His first deputy minister, Yevhen Yenin, and his state secretary, Yurii Lubkovych, were also present.
Tetiana Shutiak, a Minister of Internal Affairs aide to Mr Monastyrskyi and a national police official, were killed in the accident. Vasyl Myroshnychenko, Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, claimed to know Mr Yenin and Mr Lukkovych.
He described it as “extremely saddening and shocking to hear about,” according to ABC News Radio’s Thomas Oriti.
The officials on board the helicopter, according to local police chief Volodymyr Tymoshenko, were “not just leaders, but friends who I respected,” and they were en route to the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine.
According to Michael Bociurkiw, a global affairs analyst and senior fellow at the Atlantic Council based in Odesa, who spoke with the ABC, the interior ministry officials were on a business trip.
HOW DIFFICULT WAS THE CRASH AREA?
A child and three people on the ground were killed when the helicopter, a French-made Super Puma, crashed into a building in Bovary, a northeast suburb of Kyiv.
According to reports, the accident occurred on the playground of a nearby kindergarten in the middle of a residential courtyard. The collision caused a significant fire, destroying a portion of the neighbourhood kindergarten.
Several dead bodies were indicated by boots poking out from beneath blankets on the courtyard ground.
Witnesses said they heard screams and saw “debris was strewn all around,” as well as injured adults and children. Parents described the terrifying moments following the crash and how they and teachers collaborated to get their children out of the building.
Later, the helicopter’s remains were discovered crumpled next to a high-rise building, with the rotor blades resting against the entrance. The several-foot-wide hole was directly above the charred entrance to the two-story kindergarten building.
Visitors left flowers and stuffed animals at an unofficial memorial. The death toll could rise as rescue workers continued to identify victims’ bodies.
What caused this to occur?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the incident a “tragedy,” adding that he had asked the SBU intelligence service to launch a criminal investigation.
“This is not an accident because it has been caused by war, and war has many dimensions, not just on the battlefields,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Nothing ever goes wrong on the battlefield. Therefore, everything on this list is a direct result of the war.”
Ukrainian officials have not suggested a Russian military attack on Ukraine. According to Yuriy Ihnat, an air force spokesman, the investigation into the accident could take several weeks.
Mr Bociurkiw noted that helicopters on such missions typically flew at high speeds and low altitudes to avoid enemy missile fire. The inherent dangers can be exacerbated when frequently flying at low altitudes and high speeds. Reports also mentioned a foggy day.
According to John Lyons, an ABC correspondent on the scene, some locals immediately blamed Russia for the Dnipro apartment attack, while others were still stunned.
Despite his inquiries indicating otherwise, the investigation “shows that Russia was not involved in this, that it was an accident,” he said.
Volodymyr Fesenko, a political analyst, speculated that the tragedy might prompt Kyiv to implement a policy similar to that of many other countries and companies, namely, that no more than one top official should fly on the same aircraft.
Earlier, Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun stated that authorities were investigating multiple hypotheses and had not ruled out foul play.
“Three hypotheses are being considered. First, the three most common causes of helicopter accidents are pilot error, mechanical failure, and external interference, “she replied.
So “we just don’t know” if it was an accident or deliberate.
“We have no idea what happened; an investigation is underway,” Mr Myroshnychenko said.
IS THERE ANY IMPLICATION FOR UKRAINE?
Before the interior minister, the rest of his ministry’s leadership, and the entire helicopter crew were killed, the war had already wreaked havoc on the country.
According to Mr Fesenko, a political analyst, he was in charge of police and emergency services dealing with the aftermath of Russian strikes and de-mining.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal appointed Ihor Klymenko, the head of the National Police, as acting Interior Minister.
Mr Bociurkiw claimed that Mr Monastyrskyi, Mr Zelenskyy’s interior minister since July 2021, held a crucial position in the government and had been a staunch supporter of Mr Zelenskyy’s campaign from the start.
As a result, his appointment was greeted with optimism as a new beginning for a ministry plagued by allegations of wrongdoing.
He said the loss was exacerbated because “[he] represented a new, fresh face of the government.”
The ambassador mentioned that the minister who died was well-liked.
“He was regarded as one of the best ministers of internal affairs we’ve ever had,” Mr Myroshnychenko said.
He noted that the incident occurred at a critical juncture in the war.
At a time when Russia is at war, and the police and interior minister are critical to the fight, “this is probably the worst time in Ukraine for that to happen.”
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