Mayor of city of 1.5 million in Ukraine dies of COVID-19

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Kiev | The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city with 1.5 million inhabitants, has died of complications from the new coronavirus, his entourage said Thursday.

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One of his friends, entrepreneur Pavlo Fouks, confirmed the virus-related death.

After contracting the disease, 61-year-old Guennadi Kernes was taken to a hospital in Berlin in September, where he died.

Mr. Kernes had been in a wheelchair since 2014 after being seriously wounded by gunshot wounds in a murky attack in Kharkiv.

Appointed in 2010 at the head of this great industrial city of about 1.5 million inhabitants located near the Russian border, this colorful character had been re-elected each time for new terms, especially last October.

In a statement, the Kharkiv City Council said he died “after a long illness”.

Mr Kernes, who had a criminal record for theft and fraud, initially lent his support to pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian army after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Between November 2013 and February 2014, he cracked down on pro-Western demonstrators in Kharkiv, describing this protest movement as “an infectious disease”.

After the departure of the pro-Russian ex-president Victor Yanukovych, overthrown by the popular Maidan uprising, Guennadi Kernes finally supported the new pro-European authorities and promised to fight separatism in Kharkiv.

Officially, Ukraine, which suffers from a dilapidated health system, has recorded more than 931,000 cases of coronavirus, out of a population of around 40 million people.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the mayor of the capital Kiev, ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko, both recovered from the disease after contracting it.

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