Braverman pays tribute to Ukraine helicopter crash victims

Ukraine: Footage appears to show helicopter flying near Brovary

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The country’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky was among the nine passengers who died after the helicopter plummeted to the ground and exploded in a fireball next to a kindergarten. Initial reports said the helicopter clipped the top of the nursery where the three youngsters died.

It is also thought burning shrapnel was sent flying and may have hit some children at the kindergarten. Fifteen were among 29 people rushed to hospital after the accident in the Kyiv suburb of Bovary.

Officials said all nine people on the helicopter died. They included Mr Monastyrsky’s deputy Yevhen Yenin and State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yurii Lubkovych.

The cause of the accident is being investigated but sabotage has not been ruled out.

Home Secretary Suella Braver-man led tributes yesterday.

She said: “This is truly heartbreaking.

“Interior minister Denys Monastyrsky was a leading light in supporting the Ukrainian people during Putin’s illegal invasion and when we spoke in October I was struck by his determination, optimism and patriotism.

“My thoughts go out to all those who have died in this horrible tragedy and their families.

“The UK will always stand with our Ukrainian friends.”

Mr Monastyrsky, a prominent member of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s cabinet, is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died during the 11-month war.

Nine of those killed were aboard the emergency services helicopter, officials reported.

Amid horrific scenes, three children were also killed and 15 more youngsters from the kindergarten rushed to hospital with an array of injuries.

National police chief Ihor Klymenko said that the helicopter belonged to Ukraine’s state emergency service.

Immediately after the crash, a fire broke out close to the kindergarten and children and staff there were moved from the building.

But burning wreckage from the helicopter was still visible outside a burning building and smouldering shrapnel was said to have hit youngsters at the nursery.

Mr Monastyrsky, 42, is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died during the 11-month war. His death was said by local media to have delivered a “savage blow” to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

National police chief Ihor Klymenko said the helicopter belonged to the state emergency service. Authorities said it was dark and foggy when the aircraft crashed.

A video later circulated on social media which appeared to show the doomed helicopter flying low over trees but without difficulty in “the last seconds” before it fell from the sky.

One witness said it “made three circles” over a supermarket before it “started descending sharply, hit (a building), caught fire and that was it”.

Investigators said they were initially exploring the possibility the crash was caused by pilot error.

But Interior Ministry official Anton Gerashchenko later said: “Whether it was sabotage, a technical malfunction, a violation of flight safety rules, we will soon find out.

“My deepest condolences to the families and friends of Denys, Yevhen and all the families of those killed in this terrible disaster. Denys, Zhenya, Yura, everyone who was on board the helicopter were patriots of Ukraine. Each defended and strengthened Ukraine in their place.”

And he vowed: “Your families will always be under the protection of friends and the state.”

As the probe into the crash continues, Britain will today lead an international push to persuade Germany to send some of its high-tech Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, will join his counterparts from Poland and the Baltic countries in Estonia to try to put pressure on Berlin. The meeting comes a day before a group of around 50 defence ministers are due to assemble in Ramstein, Germany, tomorrow to discuss future weapons shipments.

Britain has already promised to send 14 Challenger 2 tanks.

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