Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has ordered the Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU, to lead an investigation into what led to the crash of an Airbus H225M helicopter that killed everyone onboard, including the nation's Interior Minister, Denys Monastyrsky, earlier today. More than a dozen other people, including children, on the ground also died. The SBU has said it cannot yet rule out the possibility that sabotage, pilot error, or a technical malfunction was the cause.
The H225M helicopter, which belonged to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES) and carried the bort number Blue 54, came down in the town of Brovary, a suburb of the capital Kyiv, at approximately 8:20 A.M. local time, according to a Ukrainian government statement. The crash occurred near a kindergarten, which sustained significant damage.
The exact number of people killed and injured in the incident is not entirely clear. The last official figure from SES was 14 dead, including at least one child, and another 25 wounded, but the official press release said "information is being clarified."
SES had earlier stated that at least seven people, including three children, were killed on the ground and that 30 were injured.
Other initial reports that 18 people had died were subsequently revised down, first to 17 and then to 16, according to statements from local officials. This figure, as well as that of how many people were injured, could very well be revised again as more information becomes available.
"There is currently no information on the number of missing children. Identification is ongoing," Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, had reportedly said earlier in the day. "Parents are coming, lists are being compiled."
Ukraine's SES has said that search and rescue operations concluded at 3:30 P.M. local time.
Ukrainian President Zelensky has confirmed that all nine people on the H225M died, including Interior Minister Monastyrsky, First Deputy Interior Minister Yevhen Yenin, and State Secretary Yurii Lubkovich. Three other Interior Ministry officials and three crew members were on board when the helicopter went down.
Monastyrsky is the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to die for any reason since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Ukraine's SBU, which Zelensky ordered to conduct the investigation into the crash in cooperation with the National Police of Ukraine and other authorized bodies, said in a statement earlier today that it is exploring various scenarios. This includes pilot error involving "violation of flight rules," a "technical failure of the helicopter," and "deliberate actions to destroy the vehicle."
There is no clear indication yet one way or the other about what may have happened. At the time of writing, no Ukrainian officials appear to have accused Russia of any involvement in the incident.
"It is too early to talk about the reasons" for the incident, Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat reportedly told a local television channel.
Videos reportedly showing the helicopter flying near Brovary before the crash show very foggy weather conditions. These types of conditions can prove deadly even for more advanced helicopter types and especially during terminal operations.
Before the accident, the H225M in question "was repeatedly engaged in the tasks for the transportation of the personnel to the emergency situations sites," according to SES. "The crew of the helicopter was trained to perform tasks under difficult conditions, [and] had the required number of hours of flight time."
The helicopter that went down is a relatively new acquisition for Ukraine. European aviation conglomerate Airbus Helicopters delivered this particular example to the Ukrainian government in 2019, according to The Associated Press, citing an unnamed French defense official. That same official stressed that it was not part of any military aid package for Ukraine following Russia's invasion last year.
The helicopter was from a batch of 21 H225Ms, among other helicopters, that the Ukrainian government had ordered from Airbus, deliveries of which had started in 2018. H225M helicopters are now in service with both SES and the country's National Guard.
No matter what the cause or causes of the crash might turn out to be, “today, a terrible tragedy occurred in Brovary, Kyiv region,” Zelensky said. “The pain is unspeakable."
"My condolences to all the families and friends of the victims!” Zelensky wrote in a message on his official channel on the Telegram social network. “Denys, Yevhen, Yuri, the team of the Ministry of Internal Affairs... true patriots of Ukraine. May they rest in peace! May all those whose lives were taken this black morning rest in peace!"
We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.
Updated 2:20 PM EST:
The Associated Press report about Blue 54 being delivered in 2019 appears to have been in error. An official press release says that Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs received the helicopter in November 2020. This would make it an even newer acquisition.
Separately, U.S. National Security Spokesperson John Kirby declined to speak to what may have caused the helicopter to come down outside of Kyiv during a press conference today.
"We send our condolences to the people of Ukraine and certainly to President Zelensky’s administration for this devastating loss to their interior minister and so many civilian lives, including children," Kirby said. "It's just heartbreaking to wake up to that news this morning. I don't have any notion right now as to what caused that crash to occur. Ukraine is investigating and certainly we aren't going to get ahead of them in their efforts."
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