An aide to the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military was killed after receiving a live grenade as a birthday present that was immediately detonated by his 13-year-old son.
Major Gennadiy Chastyakov, who served as the assistant to Valery Zaluzhny, had received a gift box from a colleague for his birthday on Monday that contained several “Western model” grenades, Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on Telegram.
Chastyakov’s 13-year-old son then picked up one of the grenades and started turning the ring, Klymenko wrote. As Chastyakov took the grenade from him, the ring was pulled out and the weapon detonated.
Zaluzhny, the chief of Ukraine’s military, wrote on Telegram that his “assistant and close friend” died “under tragic circumstances.”
Police found five more unexploded grenades in the apartment, Klymenko said.
Kyiv regional police reported that the assistant’s son was seriously injured by the explosion, and is being medically treated.
According to Klymenko, police identified the “fellow serviceman” who gave the gift to Chastyakov, and found two similar grenades during a search of his office.
Police said criminal proceedings had been initiated and an investigation is ongoing, though the Ukrainian interior ministry later said it considers the death an “accident” based on preliminary information.
“According to the information we have now, we can say that it was an accident, negligent ammunition handling,” Mariana Reva, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior said on national TV.
“It is possible that the case will be reclassified based on the evidence collected.”
The gift “was in the form of a box, with a bottle of alcohol and six grenades inside,” Reva said.
She said that the colleague “presented these grenades to a colleague, pointing out that the grenades were combat grenades.”
“Unfortunately, the deceased did not take these words seriously,” Reva added.
Klymenko assisted Zaluzhny as the military chief led Ukrainian troops in the war with Russia.
“From the beginning of the full-scale invasion, (Gennadiy) was a reliable shoulder for me, completely devoting his life to the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the fight against Russian aggression,” the military chief wrote on Telegram.
The assistant had a wife and four children; in addition to the son’s injuries, his daughter suffered minor injuries, according to Reva.
Zaluzhny has in recent days found himself in a public difference of opinion with Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who disputed his commander-in-chief’s characterization of the state of the war.
Zaluzhny told the Economist that “we have reached the level of technology that puts us into a stalemate” and “there will most likely be no deep and beautiful breakthrough,” comments which Zelensky’s office quickly pushed back against.