The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in the back Monday and hundreds of men attacked a peaceful pro-Ukraine rally with batons, bricks and stun grenades, wounding dozens as tensions soared in Ukraine’s volatile east.
Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back Monday morning while cycling on the outskirts of the city, his office said. In the eastern city of Donetsk, about 1,000 demonstrators carrying Ukrainian flags marched through the streets to hold a pro-Ukrainian rally Monday night. They were attacked by several hundred armed men shouting “Russia!” Officials have not commented on who could be behind the attack on the mayor — but Kernes was a man who could have angered both sides.
He underwent surgery and was reported by the hospital to be in “grave but stable” condition. Kernes’ friend and former Kharkiv governor, Mykhailo Dobkin, told journalists the attackers had aimed at Kernes’ heart and wanted to kill him to destabilize the city. “If you want to know my opinion, they were shooting not at Kernes, but at Kharkiv,” he said. Dobkin is among several candidates running in Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election, which the interim government says Russia is trying to derail.
One presidential candidate said the mayor was deliberately targeted in an effort to destabilize the entire city of Kharkiv, a hub of 1.5 million people. The eastern opposition, tacitly backed by Moscow, is seeking more autonomy in eastern Ukraine — and possibly even independence or to merge with Russia. Ukraine’s acting government and the West have accused Russia of orchestrating the unrest, which they fear Moscow could use as a pretext for an invasion. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the attack on Kernes, along with other events, “indicates that it isn’t possible to speak of any ‘peaceful’ pre-election campaign in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s government have levied new sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies with links to President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. The U.S. also revoked licenses for some high-tech items that could be used by the Russian military.
In Brussels, the European Union moved to add 15 more officials to its Russian sanctions list to protest Moscow’s meddling in Ukraine. That decision, reached by the ambassadors to the EU’s 28 nations, was being formally confirmed by the EU’s governments, officials told The Associated Press.
This report compiled with information from The Associated Press.