Gennady Kernes, the Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was shot and wounded on Monday, Interfax-Ukraine has reported. Kernes was a strong supporter of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych. The Interior Ministry announced that local police are investigating. The motives for the shooting are still unclear.
Kernes was shot in the back earlier today, his press secretary told Interfax. “He is currently in intensive care. Doctors are fighting for his life. Surgery is under way,” she said.
Kharkiv is one of the most pro-Russian cities in the country’s Russian speaking east and was one of the only locations in which government forces have been able to dislodge separatists occupying government buildings. Kernes initially exhibited separatist leanings but later recanted, supporting the new administration in Kiev.
The city has been the site of ongoing clashes between supporters of the new administration in Kiev and those in favor of federalization. Fourteen people were injured in a flight between the two factions on Sunday.
After Yanukovych’s ouster in February, Kernes temporarily fled Ukraine. He has been accused by critics of sending gangs to attack anti-government protesters in Kiev.
US President Barack Obama announced new sanctions against some Russians on Monday to stop President Vladimir Putin from fomenting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, but said he was holding broader measures against Russia's economy "in reserve".
Reuters contributed to this report