Helicopter crash outside Kiev leaves at least 15 dead, including Ukraine's interior minister, three children and two top officials as Russia-Ukraine fighting rages on its 329th day.

The governor of the Kiev region said that a helicopter crashed near a nursery and a residential building earlier on Wednesday.
The governor of the Kiev region said that a helicopter crashed near a nursery and a residential building earlier on Wednesday. (AFP)

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

NATO countries are set to announce new "heavier weapons" for Ukraine, the alliance's chief has said, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on his backers to speed up their decision-making.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is set to convene a meeting of around 50 countries on Friday at the US-run Ramstein military base in Germany, including all 30 members of the NATO alliance.

"The main message there (in Ramstein) will be more support and more advanced support, heavier weapons, and more modern weapons because this is a fight for our values," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

This comes after at least 15 people including Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, three children and two top officials – Monastyrsky’s deputy Yevgeny Enin and state secretary Yurii Lubkovich – were killed in a helicopter crash near a nursery outside the capital, Kiev.

Following are the latest updates:

1849 GMT - Biden says Ukraine helicopter crash a 'heartbreaking tragedy'

US President Joe Biden has offered condolences to the families of the more than a dozen people killed in a helicopter crash near Kiev, reiterating the United States' "unfailing partnership" with Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.

"We grieve with all those who are mourning this heartbreaking tragedy," Biden said in a statement, calling Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, who was killed in the crash, a "reformer and patriot."

His administration is also providing $125 million for electrical parts and other supplies to help repair crews in Ukraine keep up with Russian strikes pounding the country's electrical system, the US international development aid chief said earlier.

1804 GMT - US shares Poland's concerns about Belarus, Russia military cooperation

The United States shares Poland's concerns about the close military cooperation between Belarus and Russia, White House national security spokesman John Kirby has said, but does not have any indication Minsk intends to cross into Ukraine. 

1434 GMT - Zelenskyy writes letter to invite Xi for 'dialogue'

Zelenskyy has written a letter to Chinese leader Xi Jinping inviting him to talks, and the invitation was handed over in Davos to the Chinese delegation, his wife Olena Zelenska said.

Zelenskyy has repeatedly sought to make contact with Xi since Russia's attacks on Ukraine began in February last year in the hope that Beijing will use its influence over Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

"It was a gesture and invitation to dialogue and I hope very much that there will be a response to this invitation," she told reporters.

1631 GMT - Ukraine's Zelenskyy says tank supplies should come quicker

Zelenskyy has told the World Economic Forum that Western supplies of tanks and air defence units should come more quickly and be delivered faster than Russia was able to carry out attacks.

In his speech, which he delivered via video link, he said that Russia, which began attacks on Ukraine last February, was exporting terror.

1425 GMT - NATO warns of Russia's long war in Ukraine

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, the alliance's deputy secretary general has told top military chiefs from across Europe.

Speaking at the opening of the military chiefs' meeting here, Mircea Geoana said NATO nations must invest more in defence, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and harness new technologies to prepare for future wars.

“We have no indication that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's goals have changed," said Geoana, adding that Russia has mobilised 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.”

1348 GMT - Ukraine appoints police chief as new acting interior minister

Ukraine's government has appointed national police chief Ihor Klymenko as acting interior minister, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

Shmyhal announced the appointment hours after the previous minister, Denys Monastyrskyi, was killed in a helicopter crash near Kiev. 

He said Klymenko had officially been appointed to the role of deputy interior minister, but would fulfil the responsibilities of the minister. 

1332 GMT - Putin says has 'no doubt' Russia will win in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he had "no doubt" Moscow would emerge victorious in Ukraine, despite military setbacks in the nearly year-long offensive.

Despite a number of military defeats, victory was "guaranteed, I have no doubt about it," Putin told workers at a factory in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg.

Putin also praised the Russian defence industry as he spoke at the plant, which is part of Russian missile manufacturer Almaz-Antey.

1318 GMT - Canadian defence minister announces supply of 200 armoured vehicles

Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand has visited Kiev to meet Ukrainian officials and announced the supply of 200 Senator armoured personnel carriers to Ukraine, as part of a new package of military assistance.

The Canadian defence ministry said in a statement that Ukraine had specifically requested the vehicles and that Anand was meeting officials including Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in the Ukrainian capital.

"This aid is valued at over $90 million and is allocated as part of the additional $500 million in military aid for Ukraine announced by Prime Minister Trudeau in November 2022," it said.

1200 GMT - Germany offers to help 

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser offered Kiev assistance in investigating the helicopter crash.

Faeser said in a statement that she had sent her condolences to the Ukrainian government "and offered Germany's support in identifying the causes of the helicopter crash".

1138 GMT - Wagner chief Prigozhin attacks Putin administration over failure to block YouTube

The increasingly prominent head of the Russian private military group Wagner has taken aim at the Kremlin administration for failing to block the US-owned video sharing platform YouTube.

"YouTube is the information plague of our time," Yevgeny Prigozhin said in a statement posted on his Telegram channel, alleging, without evidence, that 40 percent of the videos on the platform were "politicised and directed against Russia".

1104 GMT - Russia's top lender Sberbank launches operations in annexed Crimea

Russia's largest bank Sberbank has said that it was launching operations on the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014, and would open offices there this year.

"Sberbank has put together a team and is starting to work on the Crimean peninsula," said the lender, which was hit with Western sanctions over the assault in Ukraine. "Gradually, over the course of 2023, the bank's offices will be opened."

The first ATMs have already been installed, and the first offices will open in the peninsula's large cities, including the port city of Sevastopol in the first six months of this year, the statement added.

1020 GMT - Zelenskyy say helicopter crash that killed minister is 'terrible tragedy'

Zelenskyy called the incident “a terrible tragedy” and a “black morning” as Monastyrsky, the interior minister, and many members of his staff perished in the helicopter crash.

"Today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kiev region. A SES helicopter crashed, and a fire broke out at the crash site.

As of this minute, 15 people died. The exact number of victims of the tragedy is currently being established.

Emergency personnel work at the site of a helicopter crash
Emergency personnel work at the site of a helicopter crash (Yan Dobronosov / Reuters)

Among them are Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Denys Monastyrsky, his first deputy Yevgeny Enin, State Secretary of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Yuri Lubkovych, their assistants and the helicopter crew. 25 people were injured, including 10 children. As of this minute, 3 children died. The pain is unspeakable. The helicopter fell on the territory of one of the kindergartens."

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.

All services are working on the scene of the tragedy."

1015 GMT - Governor's statement on the crash 

Oleksiy Kuleba, governor of Kiev, confirmed the deaths on Telegram.

"Tragedy in Brovary. The number of victims increased. As of 10.30am - 18 dead, including three children. It is known about 29 wounded, including 15 children. All necessary assistance is provided to the victims. All emergency services are on site."

1010 GMT - Rescue efforts continue

On Telegram, Kiev's governor, Oleksiy Kuleba, gave the following update on the most recent events in Brovary:

"11.40am. In Brovary, a rescue operation is underway at the scene of the tragedy. Debris analysis is underway. Children from the kindergarten are in another educational institution, and the relevant services work with them. The circumstances of the disaster are currently being investigated. All emergency services are on site."

0930 GMT - Advisor to minister send tribute to officials 

Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to the minister of the interior who has been killed in the crash, has posted an unverified video clip of the site of the crash, including a tribute to the government officials who have been killed in the crash.

"My friends, statesmen of Ukraine – minister of internal affairs Denys Monastyrsky, Yevhen Yenin and Yuriy Lubkovych died in a helicopter crash of the State Emergency Service in Brovary. Everyone on board the helicopter also died. Everyone who was on board the helicopter were patriots of Ukraine, each defended and strengthened Ukraine in their place. We will always remember you. Your families will always be under the protection of friends and the state. Eternal memory to you, friends."

0900 GMT - Interior minister among victims in Brovary

Sixteen people, including two children and Ukraine's interior minister, were killed when a helicopter crashed near a kindergarten outside the capital Kiev, officials said.

Among the dead are several top officials of the interior ministry including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, he said.

Monastyrsky’s deputy is also reported to have died in crash that happened in the town of Brovary, located some 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kiev.

The Ukrainian police channel on Telegram quoted police chief Ihor Klymenko saying:

"This morning, 18 January, a helicopter of the State Emergency Service crashed in Brovary. As a result of the crash, the leadership of the ministry of internal affairs died: the minister, the first deputy minister and the state secretary.

In total, 16 people are known to have died, including two children. Of them, nine were on board the helicopter.

22 victims are in hospital, including ten children. All emergency services work on the site. The inspection of the scene is ongoing".

In a video that circulated online from the aftermath of the incident, cries could be heard at the scene which was consumed by a fire.

"At the time of the tragedy, children and employees were in the kindergarten," he added. 

He said that medics and police were working at the scene.

The town of Brovary is located some 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kiev.

0815 GMT - Germany under pressure

Germany's government named Boris Pistorius as the new defence minister; allies ramped up pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to allow the supply of German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine. 

Allied defence ministers are meeting in Germany on Friday.

0810 GMT - US sent Israel-stored munitions to Ukraine - New York Times

The United States sent a munitions stockpile stored in Israel to Ukraine for use in the war against Russia, the New York Times reported, saying the decision was made last year when Washington's Middle East ally was under a centrist premier.

An Israeli official confirmed the report to Reuters, saying that then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the transfer although the US does not formally need such consent.

The Israeli official did not know if any further such US arms transfers from Israel were expected under conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office on December 29 and who, during previous terms, had cultivated a personal rapport with Putin.

Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk told Reuters by phone that he had "no idea" if the report was true. The Russian embassy declined comment.

According to the New York Times, the U.S. munitions moved from Israel to Ukraine were around 300,000 155-millimetre artillery shells, a kind Kiev is using up at a high pace.

0745 GMT - Ukraine says military Patriot training will take 10 weeks

The training of Ukrainian officers to operate the Patriot advanced long-range air defence system will last 10 weeks, Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said.

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands have pledged to send Patriot missile systems to Ukraine to repel a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks.

"There is a decision that our officers will be trained in 10 weeks. Such obligations were undertaken by the American partners," Reznikov said, in remarks published on Ukraine's state Military Media Center Telegram messaging app.

0730 GMT - Ukrainian adviser quits over Dnipro missile strike remarks

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskyy, has resigned after drawing backlash for his comments on a deadly missile strike in Dnipro.

In a YouTube video, Arestovych said the building was likely struck by a Russian missile shot down by Ukraine, sparking public outcry. 

Apologising for his remarks, the adviser said he had made “a fundamental error” and his resignation was “an example of civilised behaviour.”

0700 GMT - Aircraft crashes into building outside Ukrainian capital - Kiev

An aircraft crashed into a building in the Ukrainian town of Brovary near Kiev, and emergency services rushed to the scene, a presidential aide said.

He said checks were being made on casualties. Videos shared on social media showed a burning building, and said an object resembling a helicopter or drone had crashed into a nursery building. Reuters was unable immediately to verify the reports.

"We are finding out information about casualties and the circumstances," the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. 

2300 GMT - Zelenskyy hails Dutch pledge to offer Patriot system

Zelenskyy has welcomed Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's pledge to join the US and Germany's efforts to train and arm Ukraine with advanced Patriot air defence systems.

"Today we heard very important news from Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte. The news is actually a continuation of our recent negotiations with him," Zelenskyy said in his fresh address. "So, there are now three guaranteed batteries. But this is only the beginning. We are working on new solutions to strengthen our air defence."

Zelenskyy also confirmed rescue operations in Dnipro following a Russian missile strike on an apartment building on Saturday had been concluded. He said 45 people died in the strike and among them were six children, including an 11-month-old boy.

2130 GMT - US working to consolidate Ukraine's position for future negotiation

US will announce more security assistance to Ukraine in the coming days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, adding his country is undertaking some efforts to "put Ukraine in the strongest possible position when a negotiating table emerges."

Speaking at a joint press conference with his British counterpart James Cleverly, Blinken reminded that the US has provided nearly $25 billion in security assistance to Ukraine over less than a year.

"And I would anticipate that you'll hear more announcements in the days to come," he said. "There'll be a meeting again at the end of the week of the so-called Ramstein group that (Defense) Secretary (Lloyd) Austin put together to make sure that we're coordinating security assistance among many countries. So stay tuned for more on that," he added.

For live updates from Tuesday (January 17), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies