Criminal investigation into the crash of the Home Secretary's helicopter

The Ukrainian authorities began Thursday a criminal investigation ordered by President Volodymyr Zelensky, after the death of the Minister of the Interior Denys Monastyrsky in the crash of his helicopter which made at least 14 dead.

“The Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation into this terrible event,” Zelensky said in a speech late Wednesday.

“I instructed the head of the Security Service of Ukraine, in cooperation with all other authorized bodies, to clarify all the circumstances of the disaster,” he further specified.

The helicopter, a Super Puma EC-225 (Airbus Helicopters) according to the State Service for Emergency Situations (SES) to which it belonged, crashed Wednesday morning in Brovary, near kyiv.

According to the same source, nine people were on board the aircraft, including the minister and his deputy. According to a latest report attributed to the same source, 14 people died, including a child, and 25 injured were hospitalized, including 11 children.

“The head of the national police of Ukraine will be the head of the ministry for the time being. We also distributed the responsibilities that fell to the minister in the framework of our defense operation and ensuring state security,” Volodymyr Zelensky added.

On the spot, AFP journalists saw debris near apartment buildings, a door, two crushed cars. And bodies wrapped up and taken on a stretcher, one by one, to a van.

“Our pain is unspeakable”

This crash, which occurred four days after a Russian missile strike that killed 45 people in Dnipro, in eastern Ukraine, aroused great emotion.

Ukrainian officials, like Prime Minister Denys Chmygal on Telegram, called the death of Denys Monastyrsky, 42, a former lawyer who joined Volodymyr Zelensky’s party, a “great loss”.

In Washington, President Joe Biden and his wife Jill “mourn with all those bereaved by this heartbreaking tragedy,” the White House said. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, lamented on Twitter the death of “a great friend of the EU”.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland), NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that the member countries of his organization would provide kyiv with “heavier and more modern” weapons.

The contact group for Ukraine, which brings together some 50 countries led by the United States, met on Friday at the American base in Ramstein in Germany to coordinate the continuation of aid to kyiv. “The main message will be increased support with heavier and more modern weapons,” Stoltenberg said.

Shortly before, the Ukrainian president had launched by videoconference a “call for speed” in decision-making to help Ukraine, while Germany in particular is reluctant to authorize the delivery of Leopard tanks to the country.

“Tyranny advances faster than democracies,” lamented Volodymyr Zelensky. “The time the free world uses to think is used by a terrorist state to kill.”

The Leopards are among the modern, Western-designed heavy tanks that kyiv is clamoring for from its allies and which experts say will be crucial in the upcoming battles in eastern Ukraine.

On the other hand, the United States is not ready to provide Ukraine with its most advanced heavy tanks, the Abrams, a senior Pentagon official said on Wednesday, justifying the refusal with maintenance and training issues.

Russia, whose forces have suffered huge losses and major military setbacks in recent months, meanwhile continued to exert pressure, both on the front in eastern Ukraine, where its army is trying to retake advantage, only by statements from the Kremlin.

On the humanitarian front, the new president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric, is traveling to Moscow on Thursday and Friday to meet with Russian government officials and discuss urgent humanitarian needs and access to prisoners of war, a trip that follows his mission to Ukraine in December, according to a press release.

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