Military pallbearers dressed in full ceremonial attire in Ukraine carried the seven coffins into the echoing hall in central Kyiv on Saturday, to the sound of a lone trumpet and an army-style snare drum.
Earlier this week, mourners dressed in black and holding roses gathered close to Maidan square in the Ukrainian capital. They paid their respects to interior minister Denys Monastyrsky and his coworkers, who perished in a horrific helicopter accident.
“They were not broken by the war, and they did not allow others to be broken,” the eulogist and moderator of the ceremony told the hundreds of mourners that included senior government officials.
The flags of the European Union and Ukraine were flying at half-mast outside. The neighbouring roads were also barricaded and lined with anti-tank barriers, and police were cruising the deserted streets.
Monastyrsky, a 42-year-old trained lawyer who took up his post in 2021, was one of nine people on board a state emergency services helicopter when it crashed this week near a kindergarten and residential block in the Kyiv commuter town of Brovary.
He was among an emerging generation of politicians in Ukraine. Also, he was the highest-ranking official to die following Russia’s invasion launched in February last year.
The moderator explained during the ceremony that it was Monastyrsky himself who called Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 24 last year to inform him that Russia had invaded.
Monastyrsky also did orchestrate the distribution of arms to residents of the capital as Russian forces closed in.
“Glory to Ukraine,” he said in closing his comments, spurring an echoing response from hundreds in the hall. “Glory to our heroes.”
Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska had arrived at the ceremony wearing all black and carrying floral garlands.