The three main figures in Ukraine’s interior ministry have been killed in a helicopter crash beside a nursery in an eastern suburb of the capital Kiev.
Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky, 42, died alongside his first deputy minister and state secretary, BBC reported.
Nine people were killed when the helicopter came down in Brovary and another nine died on the ground, including three children.
Monastyrsky is the highest profile Ukrainian casualty since the war began, BBC reported.
The deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said the minister had been en route to a war “hot spot” when his helicopter went down.
There is no indication the crash was anything other than an accident, although witnesses said Russia’s war was to blame for the disaster.
“It was very foggy and there was no electricity, and when there’s no electricity there are no lights on the buildings,” local resident Volodymyr told the BBC.
The 42-year-old interior minister was a prominent member of President Volodymy Zelensky’s cabinet. He played a key role in updating the public on casualties caused by Russian missile strikes since Ukraine was invaded.
Ukrainian reports said that those on board the helicopter included six ministry officials and three crew.
First deputy minister Yevhen Yenin died along with state secretary Yurii Lubkovich, whose task was to organise the work of the ministry.
Before he moved to the interior ministry, Yenin helped represent Ukraine’s government abroad.
National police chief Ihor Klymenko wrote on Facebook that the helicopter belonged to Ukraine’s state emergency service, while other officials said that it appeared to a be a French Super Puma aircraft.
“There was a huge flash,” said a woman described as a kindergarten teacher, BBC reported.
“Before that there was the sound of something flying in the air, and we all went quiet. Then, after the flash, we heard an explosion. We lay down, and then quickly evacuated to a shelter.”