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Ukraine mayor shot; US annnounces sanctions

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- 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.

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.

Armed insurgents tacitly backed by Moscow are seeking more autonomy in eastern Ukraine - and possibly even independence or annexation 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.

Ratcheting up the pressure, President Barack Obama's government levied new sanctions Monday 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 Monday 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.

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!"

Police attempted to hold the pro-Russia men back but then largely stood aside as dozens of protesters were battered.

Hennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back Monday morning while cycling on the outskirts of the city, his office said. He underwent surgery and was reported by the hospital to be in "grave but stable" condition.

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.

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.

Kernes was a staunch opponent of the pro-West Maidan movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych in February and was widely viewed as the organizer who sent activists from eastern Ukraine to harass demonstrators in Kiev.

But he has softened his stance toward the new Kiev government. At a meeting of eastern Ukrainian leaders and acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk earlier this month, Kernes insisted he does not support the armed pro-Russia insurgents and backed a united Ukraine.

Kharkiv is in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia gunmen have seized government buildings and police stations and set up roadblocks to demand greater autonomy or even annexation by Russia. But unlike the neighboring Donetsk region, Kharkiv had been largely unaffected by the insurgency - something Kernes has been credited with. Its administration building was briefly seized earlier this month but promptly cleared of pro-Russia protesters.

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."

Elsewhere in the east, pro-Russia militants wearing masks gained another foothold, seizing a city hall building and police station in the city of Kostyantynivka, 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the Russian border. The city is 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Slovyansk, a major city that has been in the hands of insurgents for more than three weeks.

After the seizure, about 15 armed men guarded the city hall building. Some posed for pictures with residents while others distributed St. George's ribbons, the symbol of the pro-Russia movement.

Moscow has repeatedly pushed for a referendum on federal autonomy in Ukraine, but Kiev and its Western allies have refused, accusing Russia of fomenting separatist sentiment to foil the May presidential vote.

However, Justice Minister Petro Petrenko said the parliament in Kiev will hold a debate Tuesday on the idea of a referendum, Interfax news agency reported.

The increasingly ruthless pro-Russia insurgency, meanwhile, is turning to an ominous new tactic: kidnapping. About 40 people are being held hostage in makeshift jails in Slovyansk - including journalists, pro-Ukraine activists and seven military observers from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ukraine's Security Service said Monday.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the capture of the military observers, demanded their immediate release and urged any U.N. members with influence to work to help end their detention.

Russia's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, called Ukraine's efforts to detain pro-Russia activists the "mass persecution of dissenters." It also said Ukraine was building large temporary detention centers to hold these prisoners.

"Those structures being constructed very much remind one of fascist concentration camps," the Russian statement said.

Join the discussion

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kriderw April 28 2014 at 5:25 PM

We should rename Putin Putalin after his hero Josef Stalin. The next thing we know will be that communism will be reestablished.

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r1656 April 28 2014 at 5:16 PM

Barack Obama’s government? That’s an interesting way to describe the United States of America by the media. Is anyone else catching this? Are we taken over by a dictator ourselves? It’s our government not his personal government as is in possessive. Weird

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dorc792 April 29 2014 at 1:29 AM

seems ethnic cleansing is the trend....

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Straightdeck April 28 2014 at 6:28 PM

Amateur Night in U.S.-EU diplomacy:
The Ukraine situation cannot but deteriorate further because what is really happening there is unrecognized or ignored in the U.S. and the European Union. We are dealing with a civil war between factions sponsored by the U.S.-EU against a faction sponsored by the Russians. The war is caused by the Ukraine’s natural political/cultural/religious fault lines: the West has historic and other connections to Germany, Austria and Poland, with significant Catholic Church presence. The East is tied in the same way to Russia and the Orthodox Church. When the pro-West faction, which includes extreme rightists, violently overthrew the repressive but democratically elected pro-East government, it produced an ungovernable situation: it had seized power but had no base in the East, which observed that one of the first actions of the revolutionary West faction was to try to remove Russian as an official language. The issue that triggered the revolt was the ousted government’s decision to tie the Ukraine economically to Russia rather than to the EU. The leaked Nuland-Pyatt telephone conversation about Ukrainian politics received much attention because of Nuland’s foul language. What the conversation also revealed was that the U.S. was trying to call the shots in Ukrainian internal politics. My view is that the West Ukraine, in seeking to use force on East Ukraine, may be trying to provoke a larger conflict so that it may be rescued from the impossible situation it has created and emerge as the dominant internal power. The uncoordinated sending of a busload of OSCE representatives, accompanied by West Ukrainian military, into a civil war zone gives us some idea of the thinking behind the events.

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1 reply
sandinbox Straightdeck April 28 2014 at 10:13 PM

Straightdeck...You're not very bright....It's not just west Ukraine....66% of people in Ukraine want to stay unified. It's mostly paid Putin puppets causing most of the problems in east and southern Ukraine and some Russians that live in Ukraine but even many russians living in eastern and southern Ukraine want to belong to EU.....So you don't know much about the situation you just think you do.

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Joe April 29 2014 at 6:46 AM


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neb68116 April 29 2014 at 9:05 AM


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ddoddr9623 April 28 2014 at 6:55 PM

They say good fences make good neighbors, East and West Ukraine hate each other, best to split it down the middle. West gets the farming country, East gets the industrial area.

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1 reply
sandinbox ddoddr9623 April 28 2014 at 9:32 PM

ddoddr9623...no eastern and western ukrainians don't hate each other....It's Russians in eastern Ukraine who are causing the problems.....If you don't know what you're talking about stop talking...Right now all ukrainians are hating Putin's Russians who are killing people in Ukraine who are anti-Putin regime.

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lpearsonmqc April 28 2014 at 5:38 PM

I will go! They are human beings just like the rest of us, being bullied by a thug!!!!

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1 reply
Kat lpearsonmqc April 28 2014 at 6:11 PM

Let the 1%ers fight this one.

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waynedbrewer April 28 2014 at 5:38 PM

I said earlier in one of my comments the people are the ones that will SUFFER.....That is what is happening now ... I also said to look at the big picture.... Putin has lied since day one and he also said he will do what it takes to protect russian speaking Ukraines.. .. My question is...What is so important about Ukraine, the people, the land, or WHATS UNDER UKRAINE ???? Has that subject entered anyones mind ??? WAYNE D. BREWER

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anap123@mail.com April 29 2014 at 9:56 AM

Ukraine is a p.o.s., was and always will be.
Not worth one American soldier injury or worse, not even one penny of American taxpayers.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
Tom anap123@mail.com April 29 2014 at 10:22 AM

I hope you got it backwards. The loss of a penny is not worse then injury to an American soldier.

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