A helicopter flight, undertaken in questionable weather conditions with the top three members of the Ministry of Internal Affairs aboard, crashed while violating flight safety rules with the flight crew and supervisors ignoring warning signs.

All nine people on board the helicopter were killed, along with five bystanders at a Brovary kindergarten, while another 31 on the ground were injured.

The tragedy occurred near Kyiv in the city of Brovary on Jan. 18, 2023. The three government officials killed in the helicopter crash were the top three members of one government department – the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Those who died included Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky, First Deputy Minister Yevhen Yenin, and State Secretary of the Ministry Yuriy Lubkovich.

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Initial reports on that morning erroneously said that the Ministry officials had flown to the frontline zone in the Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions. But their helicopter crashed before reaching those destinations, falling in the city of Brovary, Kyiv region, on a local kindergarten.

On the ground, four women and one child who were in the building died on the spot, while 31 people, including 13 children, were injured.

Among the preliminary versions of the investigation’s report, violations of flight rules, a technical malfunction of the helicopter, or deliberate actions to destroy the helicopter were considered.

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The pilot forwarded documents to Ukraine related to the activities of his military unit as well as private photos of the command staff of the 22nd Heavy Bombing Aviation Division, HUR said.

There was also talk of a deliberate assassination of the government officials by the Russians. Aft Monastyrsky was one of the close confidantes of President Volodymyr Zelensky. He was also the initiator of the distribution of weapons to Ukrainians for self-defense at the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky himself stated that the death of the Ministry’s leadership was not an accident, attributing such tragedies to the general conditions in a nation beset by war.

“I think, because of the war experience that I have today and in our society: this is not an accident, this is war. War is not only on the battlefield; war has several [avenues]. No more accidents. All this is the result of war. Absolutely.”

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Zelensky also called the dead “professionals, patriots, reliable leaders.”

“These are not people who can be easily replaced. It’s a big loss for the [country],” he said.

How are the dead remembered?

Monastyrsky, a deputy from Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, was appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs in July 2021 where he was entrusted with reforming the law enforcement system.

The minister believed in the victory of Ukraine and paid a lot of attention to the safety of citizens.

“Only in unity will we win this war,” Monastyrsky had said. “In the unity of local self-government and central government. In unity of defense forces that stand side by side. In the unity of volunteer organizations that help the military, police, and rescuers.

“In the unity of countries that now are open to Ukraine and help as much as possible. This is the secret of our success and our victory.”

Zelensky considered the late minister a close personal confidante. Monastyrsky was one of those who remained in Kyiv during the first days of the Russian thrust toward the capital in February 2022.

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His deputy Yenin joined the minister’s team immediately after Monastyrsky’s appointment. He had diplomatic work experience and was also tasked by President Zelensky in May 2020 to work on cases of Ukraine against Russia in international courts.

In the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Yenin was responsible for reforms and his appointment was called one of the most successful in recent times.

About Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Yenin said that “the enemy underestimated the spirit of Ukrainians. It became clear that we cannot be defeated by numbers or weapons alone.”

Yenin said that with such a neighbor as Russia, Ukraine should always be ready for aggression and increase its strength.

Yuriy Lubkovich was appointed the State Secretary of the Ministry in November 2021, a few months before Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Lubkovich was from Ternopil, where he started his career as a civil servant for the last 10 years of his life.

Lubkovich’s wife, Halyna, said after her husband’s death that his grandfather got him interested in politics and history, leading him to his career as a public servant. Now, Lubkovich’s son is inspired by his father.

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Accident investigation results

In August, investigators reported its findings to five officials of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, outlining those who violated flight safety rules in the incident.

For about seven months, the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) examined the evidence from the accident, assisted by foreign experts who were also involved in the investigation, including representatives of the French manufacturer of the Super Puma helicopter.

Investigators found that the weather conditions were not favorable on the day of the flight, with low cloud ceilings and limited horizontal visibility.

The investigators also found that the pilot in command of the helicopter was not adequately briefed about meteorological conditions along the entire route of flight. The crew itself did not have appropriate clearance for flights in the existing weather conditions nor the necessary qualifications or certificates for operating under marginal visual flight rules.

Additionally, none of the supervisory officials responsible for flight safety canceled the flight or postponed it until the weather conditions were favorable.

Continuing the flight in unsuitable weather conditions, the helicopter crew flew at an extremely low altitude, below the height of the buildings on the route, rather than aborting low level operations and climbing to a minimum safe altitude.

When the pilot in command saw an obstacle directly in the aircraft’s flight path – a high-rise building within the city of Brovary – he attempted to execute an avoidance maneuver, during which the pilot may have lost spatial awareness or put the aircraft out of control.

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The helicopter then impacted the ground and the associated building.

As RBC-Ukraine media reports, after this tragedy, all ministers were ordered to move around the country only using ground transportation.

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