WZO Demands Justice on Ukrainian Mayor's Shooting

Doctors still fighting to save Kharkiv's Jewish mayor Gennady Kernes, who was shot in the back by masked gunmen.

Yosef Berger,

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine

The World Zionist Organization on Monday sharply condemned the shooting of the Jewish mayor of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv earlier in the day. Gennady Kernes was shot in the back by unidentified gunmen, said Abraham Duvdevani, head of the WZO. “We strongly condemn this despicable act, and wish a speedy recovery to the mayor,” he said.

Russian news sites said that reported that Kernes was shot and taken to the local hospital at about 11:30 am local time. The City Hall's website says that doctors are fighting to save his life. Kernes was shot while jogging, cycling or taking a dip in a spring, according to conflicting media reports.The doctors are currently performing the surgery, Yury Sidorenko from mayor’s press service told Russian news service RT.

According to Duvdevani, anti-Semitism in 2014 is at a height not seen for decades. Anti-Semitic groups operate with no restraint in many places around the world. Jews around the world, and in Ukraine in particular need to defend themselves and prevent the spread of hatred, Duvdevani said. “We must fight this until it is removed from the world,” he added.

Yaakov Haguel, the WZO's Israel activity head for the fight against anti-Semitism, called on the Ukrainian government to find Kernes' shooters and put them on trial. “Today, on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Memorial Day, as anti-Semitism continues to rage, I call on the leaders of the world to use a strong hand against anti-Semitic incidents, whether large or small.”

The rabbi of Kharkiv, Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz, told Arutz Sheva that the mayor is being operated on and that security forces are attempting to catch the shooters. The rabbi said the mayor had been jogging and was apparently shot in the back many times.

"This is a very dear Jew, with a warm and loving connection to the community, and we are shocked by the assassination,” said the rabbi. “We are praying for his health – Moshe son of Hana.”

A mayor of Kharkiv since March 2010, Kernes had been a strong supporter of President Viktor Yanukovich right till his ouster in February. More recently he said he no longer backed the ousted president but supported a united Ukraine. The shooting comes a day after ultranationalists clashed with anti-government protesters in the city, leaving 14 people injured.