Ukraine mourns Interior Minister and colleagues

Seven coffins of the victims of a helicopter crash, among them the Ukrainian Interior Minister, were carefully placed on Saturday in the hall of a building in the center of kyiv by soldiers in ceremonial dress to the sound of a trumpet, while the whole country paid homage to them.

Citizens dressed in black had previously rushed to Maidan Square, a rose in their hands, to say goodbye to Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and his colleagues, killed in the crash of a Super Puma EC-225 (Airbus Helicopters) which crashed on Wednesday morning in Brovary, near kyiv.

“They hadn’t been broken by the war and they didn’t allow anyone else to be broken apart from them,” said the official of the ceremony, addressing hundreds of people including members of the government.

It was Denys Monastyrsky who called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on February 24 to tell him that the country had just been invaded by Russia, the official recalled.

He was also the one who organized the distribution of weapons as Russian forces approached the capital, he said.

“Glory to Ukraine!”, Launched the official, the hundreds of participants in the ceremony responding in echo: “Glory to our heroes!”

President Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska had arrived at the ceremony dressed in black, carrying bouquets of flowers, to comfort the families of the victims.

– “We must move forward” –

Family members of the victims stood in front of coffins wrapped in Ukrainian flags, yellow and blue, alongside portraits of those killed in the accident. Several of them were crying.

“Ukraine is losing its best sons and daughters every day,” Volodymyr Zelensky said on social media after the ceremony.

He described the pain of the Ukrainians as “unspeakable” after the crash which had affected a nursery school and in which had perished in addition to the Minister of the Interior, his deputy Yevgueni Ienin and the Secretary of State for the Interior Youriï Lubkovych , among others.

Ukrainian officials, like Prime Minister Denys Chmygal on Telegram, called the death of 42-year-old Denys Monastyrsky, 42, a former lawyer who joined Volodymyr Zelensky’s party before being appointed to the Interior in 2021.

Among the victims was also a photographer, Mykola Anatsky, 34, who was traveling with the Minister of the Interior to the front line.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky during an interview with AFP in kyiv on June 9, 2022 (AFP/Archives – Sergei SUPINSKY)

“Kolya was an extremely kind and intelligent boy. He could have done a lot more for Ukraine,” said his former schoolteacher, Lioudmila Zakharenko, 53, saying the photographer had a baby girl.

“It’s scary because the best are leaving,” she added, wiping away some tears.

An intelligence officer, Ilya Samoilenko, a prisoner of the Russians after the fall of Mariupol and exchanged since, estimated that the loss of these officials was “enormous”.

“We are at war. The people responsible for strengthening and organizing our defenses are of critical importance,” the veteran, who lost an eye and an arm in the defense of Mariupol in the spring, told AFP.

Ukrainian police officers arrive at the funeral of the Minister of the Interior and his colleagues on January 21, 2023 in kyiv (AFP - Sergei SUPINSKY)
Ukrainian police officers arrive at the funeral of the Minister of the Interior and his colleagues on January 21, 2023 in kyiv (AFP – Sergei SUPINSKY)

“We can take two days and mourn,” Samoilenko added at the end of the ceremony. “But we have to keep going. We have to move on.”

Outside, Ukrainian and European flags waved at half-mast, while access roads to the center were blocked by anti-tank obstacles and security forces patrolled the deserted adjacent streets.

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