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Denys Monastyrsky pictured in March 2022 Efrem Lukatsky/AP/PA Images

Ukraine helicopter crash: Who was Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky?

Monastyrsky is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died since Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

LAST UPDATE | 18 Jan 2023

UKRAINE’S INTERIOR MINISTER Denys Monastyrsky was among the people killed in a helicopter crash near Kyiv today.

Officials initially said that 18 people had died but later revised the toll down to 17 – including Monastyrsky’s first deputy minister, Yevgeniy Yenin, and his state secretary, Yurii Lubkovich.

The men were the three main figures in Ukraine’s interior ministry.

Four children also died in the crash and the death toll may rise, officials have said.

A further 30 people were hospitalised with their injuries, including 12 children.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the crash of the helicopter, which was en route to the frontline in eastern Ukraine, as a “terrible tragedy”.

There was no immediate claim from Kyiv that Russian forces were involved in downing the aircraft and an investigation has been launched into the cause.

ukrainian-interior-minister-denys-monastyrsky-is-seen-during-a-visit-at-the-hostomel-airfield-after-the-battles-with-russian-troops Monastyrsky pictured in May 2022 during a visit to the Hostomel Airfield in Ukraine SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Monastyrsky is the most senior Ukrainian official to have died since Russia invaded Ukraine 11 months ago. He was among the top security officials who remained in Kyiv with Zelenskyy in the first days of the war last year.

The 42-year-old was appointed as Interior Minister in 2021 – just a few months before the invasion. He was also a member of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

Monastyrsky was married with two children.


Born in the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnytsky in 1980, Monastyrsky worked as a lawyer before moving into politics in 2014.

He was a key member of Zelenskyy’s successful bid to become president in 2019.

Monastyrsky was elected to parliament that year as a member of Zelenskyy’s political party, Servant of the People.

He ran on a strong anti-corruption platform and previously served as head of the Committee on Law Enforcement Affairs.

kyiv-ukraine-14th-june-2022-the-minister-of-internal-affairs-of-ukraine-denys-monastyrsky-presents-an-award-to-one-of-the-border-guards-rescuers-police-and-border-guards-have-shown-a-special-fea Monastyrsky pictured in June 2022 at a ceremony honouring Ukrainian military personnel who have fought in the war against Russia. SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo SOPA Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

He was appointed as Interior Minister in July 2021 when Arsen Avakov resigned amid speculation that Zelenskyy was due to fire him.

Avakov had held the ministerial post under four different administrations and was seen as standing in the way of the president’s attempts to stamp out corruption.

The opposition and human rights activists had repeatedly demanded his resignation, accusing him of turning a blind eye to police abuses and corruption.

‘A true Ukrainian hero’

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal today said the deaths of Monastyrsky and the other two officials were “a great loss for the government team and the entire state.”

EU chief Charles Michel expressed dismay and offered condolences.

“We join Ukraine in grief following the tragic helicopter accident,” the president of the European Council said, in a message posted to social media.

“Minister Denys Monastyrsky was a great friend of the EU.”

The European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, also paid tribute to him in the European Parliament this afternoon.

She said that Monastyrsky has been “a true Ukrainian hero over the last year, leading with bravery and stoicism”.

“That bravery was clear when he frequently visited the frontline. It was clear when I met him in his office in Kyiv and the air raid siren started, he didn’t flinch. ‘Don’t worry, we are safe’, he said.

“I liked him very much. He was a warm person and a great leader and it has been an honour to work close together with him.”

Johansson said his death “will be a great loss for the Ukrainian government, where he played a pivotal role”. 

“We will continue to stand by Ukraine as long as it takes. We will not let Putin win,” she added.

© AFP 2023 with additional reporting by Órla Ryan

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