Ukrainian Jewish mayor critically wounded in shooting

(JTA) — The Jewish mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was shot in a suspected assassination attempt that left him in critical condition.

The mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, “sustained a gunshot wound to the back,” officials from the eastern Ukraine city said in a statement  issued Monday. “Now he is in the hospital emergency room, on the operating table. Doctors are fighting for his life.”

The attack took place at about noon, according to the statement, which did not contain any information on who perpetrated the attack. Kernes was on his routine morning jog when he was shot, the news site Vesti.ua reported.

The CEO of the National Television Company of Ukraine, Zurab Alsasnia, wrote on Facebook that evidence suggested Kernes had been ambushed during his jog by a sniper who studied the mayor’s habits.

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.

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.

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