Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fought back tears as he met with the families of those killed in a helicopter crash in a Kyiv suburb earlier this week.
At the sombre service in Kyiv, Mr Zelenskyy and his wife, first lady Olena Zelenska, laid flowers on seven coffins draped in the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine and spoke with family members.
The helicopter carrying interior minister Denys Monastyrskyi and the rest of his ministry’s leadership crashed near a nursery school building in the residential suburb of Brovary on Wednesday.
About a dozen people died in the disaster – including a child on the ground – which dealt yet another blow to a nation already grieving tens of thousands of civilians and military personnel killed in the war with Russia.
Mr Monastyrskyi, who oversaw the country’s police and emergency services, is the most senior official killed since Russia invaded Ukraine.
President Zelenskyy appeared emotional at the service as he spoke briefly with the families of seven of those killed and a small orchestra played.
Officials have not confirmed the cause of the crash but earlier this week Mr Zelenskyy said the incident was a consequence of being at war – a view repeated by Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of Ukraine’s parliament, speaking after the service.
“All this would not have happened if not for this terrible and undeclared war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine,” Mr Stefanchuk said.
“Therefore, we must remember this and not forget these people. Because for Ukraine and Ukrainians, every lost life is a great tragedy.”
Russia’s war in Ukraine, nearing the end of its 11th month, is “in a state of deadlock”, according to an assessment by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
It said Ukrainian forces seem to be achieving small gains in the northeast, near the town of Kreminna, while the Russian military has “likely been reconstituting” in the eastern town of Soledar, which it took earlier in the week.
“There is a realistic possibility of local Russian advances” around Bakhmut, an eastern city whose capture would give the Kremlin a long-awaited victory after months of battlefield setbacks, the ministry said in its regular update.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, today said fierce battles for Bakhmut have been raging and three civilians were killed by Russian shelling in that area of the eastern Donetsk region.