Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the president of Ukraine, was visibly moved as he attended the memorial service on Saturday for the seven senior Interior Ministry officers who died in a helicopter accident this week, dealing yet another blow to a country already mourning its numerous war dead.
The French-built Super Puma helicopter carrying Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy, and five other senior ministry officials crashed into a nursery on the eastern outskirts of Kyiv on Wednesday, killing all seven people on board.
Another seven people were killed, including one child, in the crash. Officials are still investigating the cause of the crash.
The helicopter went down just days after at least 45 people were killed in a Russian missile attack that partially levelled a block of flats in the southeastern city of Dnipro.
On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces are fending off an unrelenting Russian onslaught in the east, where Moscow has expended massive resources for incremental advances 11 months into its full-scale invasion.
Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, paid their respects to the victims’ relatives inside the hulking Ukrainian House cultural centre in central Kyiv. A crowd of mourners snaked outside toward Independence Square.
Kyrylo Budanov, the military intelligence chief, described Monastyrskyi’s death as “a huge loss”.
“If not for (Monastyrskyi), everything could have been completely different,” he told Ukrainian media, referring to the resistance Ukraine mounted after Moscow’s Feb. 24 assault.
“He is a true hero of this country.”
Monastyrskyi had been flying to a location near the frontline, a police spokesperson said on Thursday.