Helicopter crash a blow to the leadership of Ukraine during the war

“There was a lot of panic,” said Anna Mayboroda, 37, who safely retrieved her three-year-old amid the chaos. “I also started screaming my daughter’s name because I didn’t know where she was.”

The scene where a helicopter crashed in Brovary, Ukraine on Wednesday.

The scene where a helicopter crashed in Brovary, Ukraine on Wednesday.Credit:AP

The episode was just the latest in a long line of tragedies for a weary country, coming just four days after a Russian missile hit an apartment building in the eastern city of Dnieper, killing 45 people in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the war.

Monastyrsky is the highest-ranking government official to die since the Russian invasion began last February. He and other members of Zelensky’s Brain Trust had stuck together since the early days of the war. They had survived the initial attack on the capital, Kyiv, and Ukrainian officials said it was Russian assassination plots, as well as multiple trips to the front lines despite fierce fighting.

Monastyrsky, like Selensky, took office with a promise to root out the corruption that had long plagued the government, particularly the Interior Ministry’s history of functioning as a separate political fief.

US President Joe Biden, in a message of condolences to the families of those killed, cited those efforts and said that Monastyrsky and his team are involved in “vital reform work to strengthen Ukraine’s institutions during this war and in the future.” .

“The United States stands with the Ukrainian people in the face of this tragedy for as long as it lasts,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House.

A witness told Suspilne, Ukraine’s national public broadcaster, that she saw the helicopter burst into flames and spin before it hit the ground. Another witness told Ukrainian media that he heard the helicopter circling before the crash.

At the scene, the crumpled, blackened remains of the helicopter, some of its seats still visible, lay in a heap on the sidewalk and street just outside a building, almost unrecognizable save for the rotors leaning against the structure. A partially smashed, burned car jutted out from under the wreckage.

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Videos and photos released immediately afterwards showed a long trail of fire that could have been caused by spilled fuel. A photo showed damage on the upper floor of the kindergarten.

Ukraine’s parliament said in a statement that besides Monastyrsky were killed: Yevhen Yenin, the first deputy minister of internal affairs; and Yurii Lubkovich, State Secretary of the Ministry.

Yenin had been working in Ukraine’s Attorney General’s Office of International Affairs in 2019 when then-President Donald Trump urged Ukrainian officials to investigate the Biden family while withholding military aid from Ukraine. These events led to Trump’s first impeachment by the House of Representatives. Yenin had spoken out against complying with the request.

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Monastyrsky’s portfolio gave him authority over a wide range of Ukrainians who participated in the conflict with Russia. More than 200,000 soldiers and special police officers in Interior Ministry units fought in the war, although some direct command had passed to the army. Monastyrsky, 42, was also a member of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, the organization that sets security policy for Ukraine.

The ministry has also overseen rescue efforts following rocket and drone attacks in Ukrainian cities, including a desperate attempt to find survivors in the rubble of the weekend’s Dnieper attack. The ministry has also overseen teams clearing mines from retaken areas, an operation that kills or maims dozens of people every month.

Monastyrsky, who worked as a lawyer before becoming a legislator, was elected to parliament in 2019 as a member of Zelensky’s political party Servant of the People. He became chairman of the Committee on Law Enforcement and then, in 2021, Home Secretary.

His focus was on overhauling the country’s Soviet law enforcement system to root out corruption and provide better service. But like others in Zelenskyy’s government, he was pushed into a wartime leadership role after the Russian invasion last February.

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“He was a very humble person, very courageous,” Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said of Monastyrsky on Wednesday. “There were no scandals around him. He was a good guy.”

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said via messaging app Telegram that Ihor Klymenko, the head of the national police service, will take over Monastyrsky’s duties until a new interior minister is appointed.

For Brovary residents, the helicopter death was another grim reminder of the hardships and tragedies of wartime life. The city had already been traumatized by months of Russian missile attacks, and early in the war a Russian ground attack reached the outskirts of the community before Ukrainian forces repulsed it.

On Wednesday, war-weary residents stood around the nursery’s cordoned-off compound with charred and broken windows and watched with stony faces. Cell phone videos of the immediate aftermath showed screaming parents.

Mayboroda had dropped off her daughter Vika and was walking home when she heard a “loud, cracking, banging noise.”

As she ran back to her daughter, she heard people screaming that the kindergarten was on fire. She said she thought a Russian missile hit it.

“I saw debris and smoke,” she said through tears. “I saw that scene and I thought maybe my child doesn’t exist anymore.”

Firefighters sealed off the building and held back the crowd of panicked parents. After some time, one called out, “Who is Mother Mayboroda?” and brought her daughter back unharmed.

“They gave me my daughter back completely,” she said. “The most important thing is that my child is alive.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/helicopter-crash-a-blow-to-ukraine-s-wartime-leadership-20230119-p5ce1f.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Helicopter crash a blow to the leadership of Ukraine during the war

Callan Tansill

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