A helicopter crashed into a building near a kindergarten in the city of Brovary outside the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday morning, killing Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy, and a state secretary.
According to Ukrainian emergency services writing on the Telegram messaging app later Wednesday, at least 14 people were killed in the crash, including one child. Nine of the victims were on board the helicopter. Officials had earlier reported three children were killed.
A further 29 people were injured, including 15 children, Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram.
“Children and the employees of the kindergarten were there at the moment of the tragedy,” he said, adding that they have since been evacuated.
Early official reports gave a different number of casualties, including a higher death toll.
The helicopter was flying towards frontline regions in eastern Ukraine, according to the deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko.
“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,” Tymoshenko, said.
Officials said the cause of the crash is currently under investigation. The has been no fighting reported recently in the Kyiv region.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said the head of Ukraine’s national police, Ihor Klymenko, has been appointed deputy interior minister and will serve as the acting interior minister.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the fatal helicopter crash as “a terrible tragedy.”
“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. The pain is unspeakable,” he said in a statement on social media.
Shmyhal said the death of Monastyrskyi and two other senior officials was a “great loss” for the country.
“My sincere condolences to the families of all the victims. I instructed [officials] to immediately create a special group for a detailed investigation of all the circumstances of the tragedy,” Shmyhal said on Telegram.
US President Joe Biden expressed his condolences, calling the crash a “heartbreaking tragedy.”
European Council chief Charles Michel also offered his condolences. “We join Ukraine in grief following the tragic helicopter accident,” the president of the European Council said, in a message posted to social media.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the helicopter crash showed the “immense toll” Ukraine is paying in the war against Russia.
“Our thoughts on this sad day are with the families of the victims and the injured, and with Zelenskyy, who lost his interior minister today,” said Scholz on Twitter.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser had also sent her condolences to the Ukrainian government “and offered Germany’s support in identifying the causes of the helicopter crash.”
Here are other updates on the war in Ukraine on Wednesday, January 18:
Scholz says Germany willing to send tanks to Ukraine, but with conditions — reports
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reportedly told his US counterpart Joe Biden that Germany would be willing to send the much-demanded Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, but on the condition that the US also send its own Abram tanks.
The condition was reported by German media on Wednesday following a phone call between Scholz and Biden on Tuesday.
However, the Pentagon appeared to reject the idea of sending Abrams tanks, AFP reported.
Ukraine has made repeated calls for Germany to send heavy tanks, with the Leopard 2 tanks being considered some of the best.
Pressure on Berlin has increased after the UK said it would send Challenger tanks to Ukraine to bolster its fleet of mostly Soviet-era tanks.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy leads minute of silence at WEF in Davos
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday, opening his speech in English with a call for a minute of silence for the victims of the helicopter crash and to “honor the memory of every person Ukraine has lost.”
“This is not an accident because it has been due to war and the war has many dimensions, not just on the battlefields,” he said referring to the crash. “There are no accidents at wartime. These are all war results.”
Zelenskyy’s address emphasized the world needs to speed up its support for Ukraine, warning that “tyranny is outpacing democracy” and that the mobilization of weaponry to oppose Russia’s invasion must outpace Moscow’s ability to wage war.
“The world needs resolve and speed,” Zelenskyy said.
Olaf Scholz says ‘Russia must fail’ in Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivered a rare speech in English at the World Economic Forum in Davos, citing how the war in Ukraine has plunged the world into political turmoil.
He addressed the crisis in Ukraine, saying “Russia must fail” for the conflict to end.
However, Scholz steered clear of bringing up the topic of supplying heavy weaponry like Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, instead mentioning several of the weapons systems Germany has sent to Ukraine so far, including the IRIS-T medium-range surface-to-air missiles.
The chancellor devoted much of his speech to climate change, the green energy and industrial transition, and Germany’s goals to achieve net neutrality on CO2 emissions by 2045.
He said that Russia’s invasion, spiking energy prices and natural disasters around the world meant that: “It is now crystal clear to each and every one of us that the future belongs solely to renewables.”
NATO calls for significant increase in weapons for Ukraine
Ukraine needs a “significant increase” in weapons at a pivotal moment in the war, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, adding that such support was the only route to a negotiated peaceful solution with Russia.
“[Russian] President Putin has shown no sign of preparing for peace and therefore he must realize he cannot win on battlefield. This is a pivotal moment in the war and the need for a significant increase in support for Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“If we want a negotiated peaceful solution tomorrow we need to provide more weapons today,” he added.
Meanwhile, the alliance’s deputy secretary general Mircea Geoana said that Russia is preparing for an extended war so NATO must get ready “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
“We have no indication that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s goals have changed,” said Geoana, adding that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. “So we must be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year and we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
UN nuclear watchdog stations experts at all nuclear power plants in Ukraine
The UN nuclear watchdog said its experts will be stationed at all Ukraine’s nuclear power plants going forward, including plants in Chernobyl and Rivne.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, said teams would remain at the facilities for “as long as they are requested” by the Ukrainian government.
Grossi visited some of the nuclear power plants in Ukraine this week, with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal saying Wednesday at a joint press conference in Kyiv that: “From tomorrow, there will be two flags at all of the nuclear facilities in Ukraine; one of Ukraine and the second of the international nuclear agency.”
The IAEA already has permanent presence at the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine. The plant, occupied by Russian forces, is Europe’s largest power plant. All six of its nuclear reactors are in a state of cold shutdown currently as shelling around the plant last year raised fears of a nuclear accident.
US ammunition stored in Israel heading for Ukraine — report
The United States is making use of its large ammunition stocks held in Israel to supply Ukraine with artillery shells, The New York Times reported, quoting US and Israeli officials.
According to the report, the stockpile of US munitions in Israel dates back to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the US airlifted military supplies to Israel. After the war, warehouses were set up in Israel for use in a future crisis.
About half of the 300,000 rounds destined for Ukraine have already been shipped to Europe and will eventually be delivered through Poland, the report said.
Ukraine is believed to be going through around 90,000 artillery shells a month, equivalent to twice the rate of manufacture in the US and its European allies combined. Stockpiles in both Israel and South Korea were being used to fill the gap, the report said.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed to German news agency DPA that equipment stockpiled in Israel had been transferred to US forces a few weeks ago at the request of US officials.
The New York Times said that Israel had “initially expressed concerns” that relations with Moscow would be harmed if it appeared complicit in arming Ukraine.
Separately, a journalist from KANN TV tweeted that a senior official from Israel’s Ministry of Defense will participate in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting at the Ramstein military base in Germany.
Israel has thus far refused to supply weapons to Ukraine for its own security reasons. Russia is deeply involved in Syria, its northern neighbor, and Israel is keen to prevent Iran from extending its influence through the Hezbollah militia active in the region. Israel also has sizable populations from both Russia and Ukraine, many of whom arrived following the break up of the former Soviet Union.
Russian soldier killed after deserting from fighting in Ukraine
Russian authorities announced that an armed Russian deserter fighting in Ukraine who left his base was killed.
“Dmitry Perov, wanted for the unauthorized abandonment of his military unit, was found and liquidated,” the government of the Lipetsk region, in western Russia, said on social media.
“The situation is under control,” it said. “There is no threat to residents. Investigations are under way.”
A local branch of the state VGTRK television network said the man was 31-years-old and had fled “the zone of the special military operation” in Ukraine.
It published a search notice that said he fled Ukraine on January 13 armed with a rifle and grenades, and that he could be headed for his native village.
There have been several cases of desertions among Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine in recent months.
Four detained at Moscow memorial for Dnipro victims
Russian police have detained four people at an improvised memorial for at least 45 people who were killed by a Russian strike on a residential building in Ukraine’s Dnipro, the OVD-Info rights group said.
AFP journalists earlier this week saw a handful of people laying flowers and children’s toys at a statue of Ukrainian poetess Lesya Ukrainka in the Russian capital.
The OVD-Info rights group, which monitors arrests in Russia, said two people were detained as they lay flowers at the statue. “Two others who were nearby were also detained,” the group said.
Russia has introduced strict laws that effectively ban criticism of its offensive in Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied striking residential areas in Ukraine.
Russia’s Lavrov compares US to Hitler and Napoleon
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tipped his hat to failed invasions and said the recent actions of the US following Russia’s stalled invasion of Ukraine could be compared to earlier invasions of Russia by Adolf Hitler in the twentieth century and Napoleon Bonaparte in the nineteenth century.
At his annual news conference, Lavrov said, “The United States, through Ukraine by proxy, is waging a war against our country with the same task: the final solution of the Russian question.”
Russia previously said that “denazification” was a major goal of its invasion of Ukraine.
The “final solution” refers to Nazi Germany’s mass extermination of Jewish people that was decided at the Wannsee Conference in the Berlin suburbs in January of 1942. No such analogous plans have been made for Russia anywhere, whereas Ukrainian and other critics of Russia’s invasion charge Russia has engaged in genocidal actions and war crimes against civilians there.
The White House later issued a statement calling the comparison to the Holocaust “truly offensive.”
“How dare he compare anything to the Holocaust, anything. Let alone a war that they started,” said White House national security spokesman John Kirby.
Ukrainian military says Russia shelled dozens of sites in east
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Ukrainian and Russian forces exchanged fire on the eastern frontline, where neither side has advanced much in recent months.
Russian forces launched four missile strikes, including two on civilian targets in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, west of the two focal points of fighting, the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka, the military’s report said.
Russian forces also launched 13 air raids and 23 shelling attacks from multiple rocket launchers, it said.
dh, rs/ar,wmr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article included a higher official number of casualties in the Kyiv helicopter crash. Ukrainian authorities later lowered that number after further investigation.