Ukraine live briefing: Investigators probe cause of helicopter crash that killed interior minister

Workers pass the scene where a helicopter crashed in Brovary, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (Daniel Cole/AP)
6 min

KYIV, Ukraine — Investigators from the SBU, Ukraine’s internal security service, have begun a probe into the cause of a helicopter crash that killed at least 14 people, including Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, near a kindergarten Wednesday morning. At least one child, other ministry officials and helicopter crew members were also among those killed in the crash in Brovary, a city next to Kyiv, officials said.

Police identified the helicopter as a State Emergency Service aircraft but provided no details about the cause of the crash, which happened around 8:20 a.m. local time while students were attending the kindergarten nearby. At least 25 people, including 11 children, were injured, emergency officials said.

Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by video on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the incident could not be considered an accident because it stemmed from the war.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • “Several versions of the tragedy are being considered,” SBU officials said at the crash site. Possible causes include a violation of flight rules, a technical malfunction or even sabotage, the SBU said in a statement. Emergency services said earlier that 17 people died in the crash, including three children, but revised the number down later in the day after search and rescue work was concluded.
  • Monastyrsky was traveling to a “hot spot” on the front line when the helicopter crashed, said Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office. He was flying in an EC225 Super Puma helicopter — designed for long-range passenger flights — on a morning when there was heavy fog in Kyiv.
  • Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said senior ministry officials Yevhen Yenin and Yuri Lubkovych were among those killed alongside Monastyrsky. He described the crash as a “tragedy.” Interior Ministry adviser Anton Gerashchenko remembered his three colleagues as “patriots who worked to make Ukraine stronger.”
  • Zelensky urged the world to act with “resolve and speed” to help Ukraine “outpace” Russia’s next push to claim territory. “The supplies of Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks,” Zelensky, speaking via video from Kyiv, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. NATO countries and other backers are currently debating a response to Ukraine’s pleas for battle tanks.
  • NATO defense chiefs are gathering in Brussels for a two-day meeting focused on the war in Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic security. The gathering comes amid a broader diplomatic push to answer Kyiv’s call for more advanced weapons, including tanks, at a crucial moment in the war. In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials have campaigned hard for additional missile defense systems, as well as the Western battle tanks once seen as off-limits.
At least 15 people, including Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky, died in a helicopter crash near a kindergarten in Brovary on Wednesday. (Video: Reuters)

2. Battleground updates

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with war veterans in St. Petersburg to mark the 80th anniversary of Soviet forces breaking the Nazi siege of Leningrad. On Tuesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced plans to boost the number of personnel in its armed forces to 1.5 million.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency will station safety and security experts at Ukraine’s nuclear power plants starting this week, the organization said in a statement. The planned long-term presence marks a “major expansion” in the IAEA’s efforts to reduce the risk of a severe nuclear accident during the conflict, it said.
  • Training has begun for about 90 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, a Pentagon spokesman said at a briefing Tuesday. The training will focus on the use of the Patriot air defense system and will last several months, Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said.
  • Ukraine is still reeling after a weekend strike on an apartment building in Dnipro that killed 45 people, including six children, Zelensky said Tuesday. U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called it “just egregious to look at what Putin did here over the last 48 hours or so by hitting an apartment complex. It had no military value whatsoever. … It was about killing innocent civilians while they were at home.”

3. Global impact

  • Boris Pistorius will be sworn in as Germany’s new defense minister on Thursday, the government announced. The interior minister of the German state of Lower Saxony will replace Christine Lambrecht, who resigned after several missteps sparked a debate about her ability to lead the country’s response to the war in Ukraine. Criticism of her handling of the ministry during the crisis mounted after she gave a New Year’s message on video that was faulted for being tone-deaf, as well as revelations that she took her son on a government helicopter.
  • President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz discussed assistance to Ukraine in a phone call Tuesday, the White House said. Pressure on Germany to agree to supply Leopard battle tanks to Kyiv has ramped up ahead of a key meeting of allies hosted by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.
  • Kazakhstan changed its entry rules for foreigners in a move expected to make it harder for Russians fleeing military conscription and other repercussions of the war in Ukraine to enter and stay in the country. Under the new rules, visitors who do not require a visa because they come from countries in the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, will be prohibited from staying in Kazakhstan for more than 90 days within a 180-day period.
  • Roughly 100 foreign citizens who heeded Ukrainian calls to join the war have died, according to academics tracking the fighters. There are believed to be 1,000 to 3,000 such foreign fighters active, with most serving in three battalions of Ukraine’s International Legion. “There’s a part of me that’s doing it for the right reasons, and there’s part of me that’s doing it for the violence,” a 30-year-old former British military captain told The Washington Post.
Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska spoke to reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday about a helicopter crash that killed at least 14 near Kyiv. (Video: The Washington Post)

4. Analysis from our correspondents

Putin says Russia’s economy beat expectations. Did sanctions fail? Russian officials were noticeably absent this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Russia has been slapped with sanctions and export controls since its invasion of Ukraine nearly 11 months ago, as the West seeks to hinder the Kremlin’s war efforts and cut it off from the global economy.

But in the real world, have those measures truly been effective? Putin used new government data Tuesday to paint a surprisingly rosy picture of the nation’s economy, The Washington Post’s Adam Taylor writes. Russia’s economy shrank by 2.5 percent over all of 2022, the Russian president said, citing data from the Ministry of Economic Development — significantly better than the 33 percent contraction in Ukraine’s economy last year.

For many outside Russia, those numbers were confounding.

Sands reported from London, Rauhala from Brussels, Cunningham from Washington and Juckno from Seoul. Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed to this report.