April 28, 2014

The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov, Gennady Kernes, has been shot in the back by unidentified gunmen, the city council’s press service reports.

At about 11:30 am (8:30 GMT) local time Kernes was taken to the local hospital. The City Hall’s website says that doctors are fighting to save his life.

“They shot him in the back from the forest,” Kernes’s friend Yury Sapronov told Vesti Ukrainy news outlet. “The injury is serious. His lung is pierced and his liver pierced all the way through.”

Kernes was shot while cycling, according to conflicting media reports, Yury Sidorenko from the mayor’s press service told RT. The doctors are currently operating, he added.

Sidorenko said he did not have any information about whether Kernes had regained consciousness.

He declined to comment about who was behind the shooting. He only said that Kernes “has been recently receiving a lot of threats from various people.”

A mayor of Kharkov since March 2010, Kernes had been a strong supporter of President Viktor Yanukovich right till his ouster in February. Since then he supported the new Ukrainian authorities and kept his position.

The shooting comes a day after ultranationalists clashed with anti-government protesters in the city, leaving 14 people injured.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrations have swept eastern Ukraine since March, with administration buildings being seized in several cities, including Kharkov, the largest city.

At the beginning of March some 111 people were injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and radical nationalists in the city after the radical groups then seized the administration building. Commenting on the incident, Mayor Kernes said they were ultra nationalist elements “who hid their faces behind masks and had weapons, including automatic ones,” adding that “it turned out that these men came from western Ukraine – from Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk.”

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