Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine’s interior minister was among at least 15 people killed when a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside the capital of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday, calling it a “terrible tragedy.” He said at least three children were among the dead.
Video of the immediate aftermath showed a large fire, as cries could be heard from the scene. There was no immediate information on what caused the crash, or whether it was believed to have been an accident or related to Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine.
Local officials earlier put the death toll at 18, and Zelenskyy made it clear that the casualty toll was still being confirmed.
The Associated Press quoted Ihor Klymenko, chief of Ukraine’s National Police, as saying Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yurii Lubkovych were among the dead.
Nine of those killed were aboard the emergency services helicopter, according to the AP.
President Zelenskyy said in a statement posted on social media that the crash had caused him “unspeakable” pain.
“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,” he said on his feed on the Telegram messaging app. “As of this minute, 3 children died.”
Monastyrsky, a 42-year-old father of two, was appointed interior minister in 2021. He’s the most senior Ukrainian official to lose his life since Russia invaded Ukraine 11 months ago, according to the Reuters news service.
Twenty-two people were hospitalized, including 10 children.
Officials said that at the time of the crash that children and employees were in the kindergarten.
Medics and police were working at the scene, in the town of Brovary some 12 miles northeast of Kyiv.
Russian and Ukrainian forces fought for control of Brovary in the early stages of Moscow’s invasion until Russia’s troops withdrew in early April.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into pro-Western Ukraine on February 24 last year.
The crash came on the heels of a tragedy that saw at least 45 people, including six children, die when a Russian missile struck a residential building in the eastern city of Dnipro over the weekend.
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