The Jewish mayor of eastern Ukraine's biggest city is slowly recuperating in an Israeli hospital over the weekend after surviving an assassination attempt on Monday, medical officials said on Friday.
Gennady Kernes underwent surgery early Wednesday morning at Haifa's Rambam Medical Center after being shot in his native Kharkiv.
Kernes was flown to Israel on Tuesday from a hospital in his native Kharkiv after sustaining a gunshot wound in his back.
Rambam officials said on Friday that Kernes has been taken off a respirator and is fully conscious.
He underwent a complicated hours long surgery early Wednesday, after which he was sedated and put on a respirator at Rambam's neurosurgical intensive care unit.
Kernes was originally taken to Haifa's private Elisha Hospital on Tuesday, but was transferred to Rambam for further treatment.
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.
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.
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.