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Interrupted flight. The plane crash that killed the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in the photos of Vyacheslav Ratynsky

A destroyed helicopter at the site of the Brovary tragedy. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

On January 18, 2023, a Super Puma helicopter crashed into a kindergarten in Brovary. The leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was on board. Nine people were killed, including Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and his first deputy Yevhen Yenin. All those in the helicopter, including the pilots, were killed. The group was on its way to Kharkiv and Dnipro regions.

According to the results of the SBI investigation, in addition to the Interior Ministry leadership and the people accompanying them, 4 women and a young child who had come to the kindergarten died in the plane crash. 31 people, including 13 children, were injured.

The crash killed Ukrainian photographer Mykola Anatsky, who had recently worked for the Ministry of Internal Affairs. During the Russian-Ukrainian war, he was a fighter with the 2nd Battalion of Special Forces "Donbas" and the S. Kulchytsky Operational Battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine. He participated in the battles for Debaltseve, Shyrokyne, and Kyiv. As a volunteer, he participated in combat missions and was wounded.

The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes photographs of Viacheslav Ratynskyi taken at the site of the plane crash in Brovary on January 18 and during the farewell to the fallen at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv on January 21.

The crash site in Brovary. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Tragedy after tragedy

"A year ago, just like now, Russian troops were shelling Ukrainian cities very often, alarms were sounded almost every day, and missile and drone attacks took place several times a week. Just a few days before that, a terrible tragedy happened in Dnipro: a Russian missile hit an apartment building. That means the rocket attack could have happened at any time," says Viacheslav Ratynskyi. That morning, he woke up to another message in his messengers: it said that something had fallen on a kindergarten in Brovary, either a drone or a missile. "Without hesitation, I got behind the wheel and rushed to Brovary. On the way there, I heard on the radio that a helicopter carrying the entire leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs had crashed. To say I was shocked is an understatement," the photographer recalls.

In the fall of 2023, the State Bureau of Investigation completed the investigation into the helicopter crash. They found that the group was flying in a helicopter that did not have permits for other flights than emergency flights, and the crew did not have the appropriate permits to fly in difficult weather conditions and the necessary certificates. Due to the bad weather, the helicopter was flying extremely low, below the height of the buildings.

"The crew commander saw an obstacle - a multi-storey building - and began to perform a circling maneuver, but he climbed sharply, lost his orientation in space, and at the end of the maneuver, due to the lack of necessary skills, collided with the ground," the agency commented.

Five SES officials have been notified of suspicion. They face up to 10 years in prison.

Flowers, toys and bodies

Photographer Viacheslav Ratynskyi says that it was very difficult to work at the crash site because of the dominance of security forces around.

A huge area was fenced off around the crash site. It was impossible to get closer to the helicopter. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

"As always, it is very difficult for journalists to work at the site of missile strikes or disasters. Everything is surrounded by guards, fenced with fences and tapes. I understand that these are security measures for the duration of the investigation and collection of evidence, but sometimes it gets absurd. I could not understand where the tragedy happened, a huge area was fenced off. I had to go around all the yards to find out where the helicopter was located. From time to time, high-ranking officials appeared, either from the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the Presidential Office. So I was guided by them," says Viacheslav Ratynskyi. Eventually, he climbed up to the balcony of one of the buildings and saw a damaged garden, part of the roof of which was destroyed. "The helicopter was not visible from there. From the ground, it was also almost invisible, and we were not allowed to get closer. Later, I realized that we could try to climb the neighboring building. Of course, no one was allowed to enter the apartments, but from a tiny window in the entrance on the 8th floor, I saw that the crash site was very clearly visible," Ratynsky explains.

A destroyed helicopter at the site of the Brovary tragedy. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

A view of the damaged kindergarten from the building's entrance. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

According to the photographer, residents of the neighboring houses brought flowers and toys to the gates of the kindergarten throughout the day. The consequences of the tragedy became truly striking when bodies began to be taken out of the building.

People bring toys and flowers to the site of the tragedy. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

"People carried flowers to the gates of the kindergarten for a long time, stood there and cried. I hoped that no one in the kindergarten was injured. Unfortunately, the tragedy happened in the morning. Parents with their children were just going to the kindergarten. I realized that there were dead people in the kindergarten when they started to take out the bodies. They were carried and carried. It was a very unpleasant experience," the photographer recalls.

Workers carry the bodies of those killed in the kindergarten. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Farewell ceremony

The farewell ceremony for the victims of the plane crash took place three days later, on January 21. Everyone could say goodbye at the Ukrainian House in Kyiv, where high-ranking officials are usually sent off.

"At first, there was a closed part of the ceremony, where absolutely all the military and political leadership of the state, clergy, military and intelligence leaders, the President of Ukraine and his wife, and the relatives of the victims gathered. Everything was very official, the coffins with the dead were brought in several black hearse. An honor guard brought the dead into the building, unfurled flags and covered the coffins. Families were saying goodbye, relatives, parents, children, wives, and Zelensky and his wife were crying. It was a very sensitive moment," says Vyacheslav Ratynsky.

People grieve for their loved ones during a funeral ceremony. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Volodymyr Zelenskyy cries at the funeral ceremony for the victims. Next to him is his wife Olena Zelenska. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi

For those who wanted to say goodbye, the doors opened a little later. The line stretched from European Square to Independence Square.

A queue on Khreshchatyk. January 18, 2023. Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


Viacheslav Ratynskyi (34 years old) is a Ukrainian documentary photographer and photojournalist. He has been working in the field of photojournalism for over 10 years. He cooperates with international and Ukrainian news agencies and media, including Reuters, The Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine and others.

He has been published in many Western and Ukrainian media, including: The Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and others.

He has participated in numerous photo exhibitions in Europe, the USA, Japan and South Korea. His photographs have been published in several books.

Viacheslav Ratynskyi works in Ukraine. His work explores the impact of war on society, social and political issues.

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As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.

The project is implemented thanks to the support of IWM Documenting Ukraine.


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