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Tearful Zelenskiy pays tribute to senior Ukrainian officials killed in helicopter crash

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KYIV, Jan 21 (Reuters) – A tearful Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy attended a memorial service on Saturday for seven senior officials killed in a helicopter crash, another blow to an already grieving nation its many war dead.

Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi, his deputy and five other senior ministry officials were killed on Wednesday when their French-made Super Puma helicopter crashed in fog at a nursery near Kyiv.

Seven other people were killed, including a child, in the crash. Authorities are still investigating the cause.

“Indescribable sadness covers the soul,” Zelenskiy wrote in a Telegram post on Saturday.

The helicopter crashed just days after at least 45 people were killed in a Russian missile attack that partially leveled a building in the southeastern city of Dnipro.

On the battlefield, Ukrainian forces repel a relentless Russian assault in the east, where Moscow has spent massive resources on incremental advances 11 months after its full-scale invasion.

Zelenskiy posts a daily video address in which he usually discusses the war, but on Saturday he spoke only about the death of Monastyrskyi.

“My condolences to all relatives and friends. It hurts to think about it, it hurts to talk about it,” he said.

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“We lose people every day, who we will always remember and who we will regret not being able to bring back,” he added, speaking of “how many brilliant people are taken by war”.

Zelenskiy and his wife, Olena Zelenska, paid their respects to loved ones of the victims inside the massive Ukrainian House cultural center in Kyiv. A crowd of mourners snaked outside towards Independence Square.

Kyrylo Budanov, the head of military intelligence, described Monastyrskyi’s death as “a huge loss”.

“Without (Monastyrskyi), everything could have been completely different,” he told Ukrainian media, referring to the resistance mounted by Ukraine after the February 24 assault on Moscow.

“He is a true hero of this country.”

Monastyrskyi had flown to a location near the front line, a police spokesman said Thursday.

Reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Yuriy Kovalenko and David Ljunggren; Written by Dan Peleschuk; Editing by Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.