Gennady Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv, is fighting for his life in a hospital after an apparent assassination attempt on his life Monday morning. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city and where pro-Russians have caused turmoil since Russia-backed president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on February 22.
Kernes, 54, was shot in the back on his way to his morning swim. Mashable’s Christopher Miller reports it occurred at 11:30 AM local time with his bodyguards behind him. Kharkiv’s spokeswoman told reporters “it was most likely carried out by someone hidden in the surrounding woods where he was exercising who knew of his daily routine.”
He was transported to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery.
“Several internal organs have been injured. There’s bleeding and shock. The bleeding has been stopped, and emergency doctors are treating him for shock,” Dr. Valeriy Boyko, who performed a two-hour “successful” surgery on the mayor, told reporters on Monday.
He said Kernes had suffered a “serious thoracoabdominal injury caused by damage to the diaphragm resulting in an aperature between the chest and abdomen.” Kernes was still anesthetized and in critical condition at the time of the doctors remarks Monday afternoon.
More specifically, Deputy Chairman of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration Yuriy Sapronov said Kernes had sustained injuries to his lung and liver.
“They shot him in the back from the forest. The injury is serious. His lung is pierced and his liver pierced all the way through,” he wrote on Facebook.
Kernes is a member of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions and criticized the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that led to Yanukovych’s ousting. The protesters did not approve of Yanukovych choosing a bailout from Russia instead of a trade deal with the European Union. Kernes was on Yanukovych’s side and wanted closer ties to Russia. The Guardian says Kernes is believed to have ties to organized crime in the 1990s. However, Kernes changed after Yanukovych was ousted.
Since the change in government in Kiev, however, Kernes’s statements had become more patriotic. He stated that Kharkiv, an eastern university city 25 miles from the Russian border, should remain part of Ukraine. A billionaire, he also claimed he was himself a victim of Yanukovych’s corrupt system.