death of zelensky aide leaves void in leadership team
Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

The helicopter crash that killed top Ukrainian officials on Wednesday created a void atop a cabinet ministry critical to the war just as Kyiv prepares for a possible Russian offensive in the spring and endures relentless long-range attacks on its civilian infrastructure.

The interior minister, Denys Monastryrsky, a trusted adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky responsible for the country’s domestic security, was among at least 14 people to die when the helicopter crashed in Brovary, a small town outside Kyiv on Wednesday. Also killed, according to Ukraine’s Parliament, were Yevhen Yenin, the first deputy minister for internal affairs, and Yurii Lubkovich, the ministry’s state secretary.

Calling every death “the result of war,” Mr. Zelensky linked the incident to Russia’s invasion, even as investigators assess whether mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage — or another factor entirely — caused the crash.

Whatever the cause, the impact of the crash is clear: A member of Mr. Zelensky’s close circle, which had somehow managed to stay intact since the start of the war, is gone. And the disaster comes just as Kyiv renews a diplomatic push for some of the most lethal armaments from allies, as its main supporters worry that there isn’t enough time to enable the Ukrainian military to break the deadlock with Russian forces before Moscow launches another ground assault.

The crash occurred hours before Mr. Zelensky appealed to global leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, for more advanced arms including tanks and air defense missiles, and two days before NATO defense ministers and other officials are slated to assemble at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to discuss whether to send powerful tanks to aid Ukraine’s defense efforts.

Mr. Monastryrsky, the highest-ranking government official to die since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, oversaw tens of thousands of Ukrainians fighting to defend their country as part of the police, national guard and border units.

Mr. Monastryrsky, 42, also directed the rescue and recovery efforts earlier this week in Dnipro, where a Russian missile killed 45 people in one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the nearly yearlong war.

In his nightly address Wednesday, Mr. Zelensky said that Mr. Monastyrsky’s responsibilities had been reallocated and that the country’s head of national police, Igor Klymenko, will lead the ministry until a replacement is chosen.

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