Gennady Kernes, giving the 'peace' sign
Gennady Kernes, giving the 'peace'

Gennady Kernes, the Jewish mayor of Kharkiv in the Ukraine who was critically injured Monday, has regained consciousness and is speaking a little, according to Kharkov’s chief rabbi and Chabad emissary, Rabbi Moshe Moskovitz.

“He woke up, and he’s speaking a little,” said Moskovitz, in statements published on Chabad's website. “G-d willing, I hope to visit him soon.”

Kernes was shot in the back by unknown assailants while on a morning jog. It remains unclear whether the motivation for the attack stems from political upheaval in Ukraine or from rising anti-Semitism there. 

The investigation into the attack indicates thus far that the mayor was shot by a “skilled” assassin who possessed an accurate weapon. An unexploded hand grenade was also found near the scene of the crime.

Kernes was injured in the lungs, stomach, liver and spine. He was transported Israel and admitted to two separate hospitals in Haifa - first the private Elisha hospital, then Rambam. Kernes underwent emergency surgery and is on the road to recovery. A Chabad emissary in Haifa has been visiting him regularly. 

“Things are still delicate, but he’s getting better, and we hope he gets out of it,” Rabbi Moskovitz said Monday .

The unrest in Ukraine has brought with it a rise in anti-Semitic attacks on the region's Jewish population, highlighted by such events as the stabbing of the Deputy Commander of ZAKA Kiev and Hatzalah Kiev Chairman Rabbi Hillel Cohen.

Last month, several more prominent anti-Semitic incidents made headlines, after Nazi-esque leaflets were allegedly distributed asking Jews to "register their religion" and a Ukrainian synagogue was firebombed.

Last week, a band of pro-Russian militants also attacked a Jewish-owned bank, ostensibly over political differences. 

Israel has remained largely clear of the political struggle in Ukraine, instead choosing to provide ongoing treatment to severely wounded Ukrainian nationals embroiled in the conflict.