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A helicopter carrying Ukrainian officials crashed outside Kyiv, killing 14

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A helicopter carrying Ukraine's interior minister and other senior officials crashed outside Kyiv today, killing at least 14 people. The helicopter hit a kindergarten, and officials say at least one child is among the dead, with many more wounded. NPR's Lauren Migaki reports from Kyiv.

LAUREN MIGAKI, BYLINE: It was a quiet, foggy morning in Brovary, a suburb outside Kyiv.

OLENA KOLESNYKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MIGAKI: Olena Kolesnykova says she was making coffee when she heard a loud noise.

KOLESNYKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MIGAKI: She thought maybe it was an explosion from a drone. Instead, it was the sound of a helicopter crashing into a kindergarten, where children were already inside and had started their school day. Witnesses say after the crash, a fire broke out, the flames reaching several stories into the air. Kolesnykova's granddaughter, now grown, once attended the now-destroyed school.

KOLESNYKOVA: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MIGAKI: She says, when she found out what happened to the school with the children inside of it, she couldn't breathe because of the horror. Clutching her chest, she watches as rescuers climb through smoldering debris. The school walls and windows are blown out. Burn marks scorch the walls that are left intact, and pieces of the downed helicopter are strewn across the playground.

INGA LITCHENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MIGAKI: Inga Litchenko also lives nearby. She came to see the remnants of the school, pushing her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Elyzaveta, in a stroller. Litchenko was planning on enrolling her daughter here, but now she's thinking she'll wait until the war is over before she sends her daughter to any school.

LITCHENKO: (Speaking Ukrainian).

MIGAKI: It's very frightening what happened. She says it was very foggy, and she doesn't know why they decided to fly a helicopter in such weather. The cause of the crash is still unknown, and the investigation may take some time. The helicopter was taking Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky and his colleagues to a hot spot near the front lines, according to officials.

HALYNA YANCHENKO: Ministry of interior is deeply involved in protecting Ukraine.

MIGAKI: Halyna Yanchenko is a member of parliament. She worked with Monastyrsky when he was a member there. And she says he was the best minister of interior Ukraine has ever had. In his role, Monastyrsky oversaw the law enforcement, the police force, state emergency services.

YANCHENKO: National Guard, border guards, and he was coordinating all this efforts in order to protect Ukraine from aggressors.

MIGAKI: The government has already appointed a new interim minister, the head of the national police, Ihor Klymenko. Yanchenko says it's a smart move.

YANCHENKO: As of the ministry, I'm pretty much, like, calm. And Mr. Klymenko is like - he knows the system, he knows the situation. So it will not help Russia.

MIGAKI: Still, she says, Monastyrsky's death is a huge loss. She describes him as a man of strong values who dreamt about building a better Ukraine. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Lauren Migaki, NPR News, Kyiv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Lauren Migaki is a senior producer with NPR's education desk. She helps tell stories about teacher strikes, college access and a new high school for young men in Washington D.C. She also produces and hosts NPR's podcast about the Student Podcast Challenge.