Ukrainian Mayor Gennady Kernes.
(photo credit: COURTESY WWW.CITY.KHARKOV.UA)
The Jewish mayor of eastern Ukraine's biggest city underwent surgery early Wednesday morning at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center after having <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Jewish-Mayor-of-eastern-Ukrainian-city-Kharkiv-shot-fighting-for-life-350652" target="_blank">survived an assassination attempt on Monday</a>.<br /> <br /> Gennady Kernes was <a href="http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Jewish-mayor-of-eastern-Ukrainian-city-Kharkiv-shot-fighting-for-life-350749" target="_blank">flown to Israel on Tuesday</a> from a hospital in his native Kharkiv after sustaining a gunshot wound in his back.<br /> <br /> He underwent a complicated hours long surgery early Wednesday and was said to be in stable condition, though he remained sedated and on a respirator at Rambam's neurosurgical intensive care unit.<br /> <br /> Kernes was originally taken to Haifa's private Elisha Hospital on Tuesday, but was transferred to Rambam for further treatment.<br /> <br /> After protesters toppled pro-Moscow Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich in February, Kernes, 54, supported calls for Kharkiv – one of the most pro-Russian cities in the country’s Russian- speaking east – to become independent from Kiev’s new, pro-European leaders.<br /> <br /> But he changed his views after being accused of fomenting separatism and when Ukrainian police forced pro-Russian protesters out of administrative buildings in the city, making it the only major eastern city to have taken back control from the armed protesters – who have demanded a referendum on independence for most of eastern Ukraine.<br /> <br /> A Ukrainian local government official said Kernes was either riding his bicycle or jogging when he was shot by someone, probably hidden in the nearby woods. His bodyguards were following in a car but were not close enough to intervene.<br /> <br /> The Ukrainian embassy in Tel Aviv said it was not involved in Kernes’s hospitalization in Israel, and that it may have been privately arranged and funded.<br /> <br /> Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on Monday that they were investigating whether the shooting was in retaliation for the detention of 13 pro-Russian separatists on Sunday – on charges of possession of petrol bombs, explosives and nails.<br /> <br /> So far there have been no indications that the shooting was connected to a series of anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred in the country since the beginning of the protests last year.<br /> <br /> Local Jews in Kharkiv were praying for Kernes, the website of the Chabad-Lubavitch hassidic movement reported.<br /> <br /> “All we can do right now is pray. He’s a good friend of the Jewish community and has helped us in many ways,” Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, Chabad’s emissary in the city, told the website.