(JTA) — The Jewish mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was airlifted to Israel for treatment for a gunshot wound shot in a suspected assassination attempt.
The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, was shot in the neck Monday while on his routine morning jog.
Kernes underwent surgery at Haifa’s Elisha Hospital after being flown there early Tuesday morning. The hospital said in a statement issued later Tuesday morning that the operation was successful and no further surgery will be required.
“Israeli doctors arrived last night, praised our doctors’ work and recommended he be transferred for treatment in Israel. The doctors deemed his condition to be safe for travel and at 3:20 A.M. his plane took off from Kharkiv,” city council member Yuri Sidorenko told Interfax Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials have opened an investigation into the shooting, according to Interfax
The official website of the Kharkiv Jewish community describes Kernes as “Jewish by ethnicity.” Eleonora Groysman, editor of the Jewish Ukrainian news site evreiskiy.kiev.ua, also told JTA that Kernes is Jewish.
According to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, the 2009 election campaign in which Kernes became mayor was mired with anti-Semitic hate speech targeting him and other Jewish candidates.
Ukraine has seen deadly clashes between political opponents since the eruption in November of a revolution that started with protests over then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s perceived pro-Russian policies. Yanukovych was ousted from power in February and replaced with an interim government that has scheduled elections for next month.
Kernes reportedly has played a major role in the confrontations between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in the city.
He had been a supporter of Yanukovych, and then changed his stance, saying he does not support the pro-Russia insurgents or the annexation of Ukrainian territory.
Several anti-Semitic attacks, including two stabbings and two attempts to torch synagogues, have occurred since November in Ukraine, a country with relatively low levels of anti-Semitic violence.