Gennady Kernes, the Jewish mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, was airlifted to Israel Tuesday morning to receive medical treatment after being shot and critically wounded on Monday.

The mayor of Ukraine’s second largest city, Gennady Kernes, 54, was flown to a hospital in Israel after being struck in the back Monday while out on his morning jog.

Kernes underwent immediate surgery, with local doctors “fighting for his life,” according to a Kharkiv municipal spokesman. According to the Times of Israel, Israeli doctors arrived in Kharkiv on Monday and “assessed the work of our doctors but strongly recommended moving him for treatment to Israel,” city spokesman Yuriy Sydorenko told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday morning. The doctors decided that Kernes, though still in critical condition, was transportable, and an Israeli flight took off from the Kharkiv airport shortly after 3 a.m., Sydorenko added.

A statement from Elisha hospital in Haifa, where Kernes was taken during the night, said he underwent successful surgery, the Times of Israel added. Chabad’s emissary in Kharkiv, Rabbi Moshe Moskowitz told Israel National News, “This is a very dear Jew, with a warm and loving connection to the community, and we are shocked by the assassination.” According to Rabbi Moskowitz, Kernes had become more connected to Judaism in recent years, receiving a Hebrew name and circumcision.

The Kernes Connection to the Ukraine Crisis

The mayor of Kharkiv since March 2010, Kernes had been a strong supporter of President Viktor Yanukovich until his ouster in February. Kernes recently said he no longer backed the deposed president but supported a united Ukraine. As reported in Israel National News, “the shooting comes a day after ultra-nationalists clashed with anti-government protesters in the city, leaving 14 people injured.”

Kharkiv is one of the most pro-Russian cities in the country’s Russian-speaking east and was one of the only locations in which government forces had been able to dislodge separatists occupying government buildings. It has been the site of ongoing clashes between supporters of the new administration in Kiev and those in favor of federalization with Russia. The Jerusalem Post notes that there are currently no indications that the shooting was connected to a series of anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred in the country since protests began last year.

Written by Gidon Ben-Zvi, Staff Writer, United with Israel