The Jewish mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was airlifted to Israel early Tuesday morning for treatment for a gunshot wound shot in a suspected assassination attempt.
Kharkov mayor Gennady Kernes was shot in the neck while on his routine morning jog and initially was reported to be struggling for his life.
Kernes underwent surgery at Haifa’s Elisha Hospital after being flown there, and the hospital said in a statement 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 Kharkov,” city council member Yuri Sidorenko told Interfax Ukraine.
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.