Ukraine rocked by chopper crash 'tragedy'

Ukraine's interior minister is among at least 15 people who were killed when a helicopter crashed near a nursery outside Kyiv, which comes as intense fighting continues in the country's east and a decision looms on approval for German-made battle tanks to confront invading Russian forces.

Officials say nine people on board the aircraft and six on the ground, including three children, were killed on Wednesday when the French-made Super Puma helicopter crashed in a residential area in the suburb of Brovary on the capital's eastern outskirts.

The regional governor said 29 other people were injured, including 15 children.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the crash a "terrible tragedy".

"As of this minute, three children died. The pain is unspeakable," he said in a statement.

At the scene, debris was scattered over a muddy playground and emergency workers milled about a fleet of ambulances.

"There were children and ... staff in the nursery at the time of this tragedy," Kyiv region governor Oleksiy Kuleba wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

National police chief Ihor Klymenko confirmed that Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi was killed alongside his first deputy, Yevheniy Yenin, and other ministry officials flying in the helicopter operated by the state emergency service.

Ukrainian officials said it was not immediately clear what had caused the crash. Ukrainian officials made no reference to any Russian attack in the area at the time.

Separately, Ukraine reported intense fighting overnight in the east of the country, where both sides have taken huge losses for little gain in intense trench warfare over the last two months.

Ukrainian forces repelled attacks in the eastern city of Bakhmut and the village of Klishchiivka just south of it, the Ukrainian military said. Russia has focused on Bakhmut in recent weeks, claiming last week to have taken the mining town of Soledar on its northern outskirts.

After significant Ukrainian gains in the second half of 2022, the front lines have hardened in the past two months. Kyiv hopes new Western weapons will allow it to resume an offensive to recapture land, especially heavy tanks that would give its troops mobility and protection to push through Russian lines.

Western allies will gather on Friday at a US air base in Germany to pledge more weapons for Ukraine. Attention is focused on Germany, which has veto power over any decision to send its Leopard tanks, which are fielded by armies across Europe and seen as the most suitable for Ukraine.

Berlin says a decision will be the first item on the agenda of Boris Pistorius, its new defence minister.

Britain, which broke the Western taboo on sending main battle tanks at the weekend by promising a squadron of its Challengers, has called on Germany to approve the Leopards. Poland and Finland have said they are ready to send Leopards if Berlin allows it.

Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz will address the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, though his government is likely to wait until later in the week to unveil a decision on tanks.

Zelenskiy was due to address Davos by video link later on Wednesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow saw no prospects of peace talks and there could be no negotiations with Zelenskiy.

Russia has said talks are possible only if Ukraine recognises Moscow's territorial claims; Kyiv says it will fight until Russia withdraws from all Ukraine.

In the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, the civilian death toll from a missile that struck an apartment block on Saturday rose to 45, including six children, among them an 11-month-old boy, Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Ukrainian authorities called off the search for survivors on Tuesday. About 20 other people are still missing in the rubble after the attack, the deadliest for civilians of a three-month Russian missile bombardment campaign against cities far from the front.

Moscow denies intentionally targeting civilians. It launched its "special military operation" in Ukraine in February last year because of what it says was a security threat from Kyiv's ties with the West.

Kyiv and the West call it an unprovoked invasion to subdue Ukraine and seize its land.