Mayor of Ukraine's No. 2 City Shot, Clinging to Life Meanwhile, separatists take yet another town By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Apr 28, 2014 8:30 AM CDT 16 comments Comments Ukrainians pray during a rally for a united Ukraine in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Poster at right reads, "Putin stop." (AP Photo/Olga Ivashchenko) (Newser) – Gennady Kernes, the mayor of the Eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, was shot in the back this morning, and doctors are currently performing emergency surgery and "fighting for his life," city hall tells the AP. The circumstances of the shooting are unclear, though a Ukrainian report spotted by the Wall Street Journal said he was swimming in a local spring. Kernes was a staunch ally of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, notes the BBC, and was accused of sending activists to Kiev to harass pro-Western protesters against him. When Yanukovych fled the country, Kernes briefly did too, before returning and declaring that he now supported a united Ukraine. Kharkiv has so far managed to fend off the pro-Russian separatists that have taken over many other Eastern Ukrainian cities. Kernes is also Jewish, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency points out, and was the target of anti-Semitic hate speech during his mayoral election. Meanwhile: Masked militants today seized the city hall building in yet another town—Kostyantynivka, which lies between Slovyansk and Donetsk—and raised a flag proclaiming it part of the "Donestsk Republic." They also reportedly control the town's police station. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slovyansk held a press conference yesterday in which he paraded before the cameras a group of European military observers separatists had captured, declaring them "prisoners of war." He accused them of being spies for NATO, and said he might exchange them for pro-Russian activists held by Kiev, CNN reports. The observers said they'd agreed to the press conferences so that their families could see them. Shortly after the appearance, the separatists released one of the observers for health reasons; the Swedish captive had been suffering from diabetes.