Hennadiy Kernes

Hennadiy Adolfovych Kernes (Ukrainian: Геннадій Адольфович Кернес, Russian: Генна́дий Адо́льфович Ке́рнес 27 June 1959[2] – 17 December 2020) was a Ukrainian politician who was the Mayor of Kharkiv from 2010[3] until his death in 2020.[1]

Hennadiy Adolfovych Kernes
5th Mayor of Kharkiv
In office
24 November 2010  17 December 2020
Preceded byMikhail Dobkin
Succeeded byIhor Terekhov (acting)
Personal details
Born(1959-06-27)27 June 1959
Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union (now Ukraine)
Died17 December 2020(2020-12-17) (aged 61)
Berlin, Germany[1]
WebsiteOfficial mayoral website

Early life

Kernes was born into a Jewish family,[4][5] to Adolf Lazarevych Kernes and Anna Abramovna in Kharkiv.[6] He graduated from the National University "Yaroslav the Wise Law Academy of Ukraine" with a degree in law and from Kharkiv National University of Economics with a degree in public administration.[7] Kernes started his career in 1977 at the Kharkiv plant "Miner's Light".[6] Between 1977 and 1979 Kernes studied in CTC-14 in Kharkiv and specialised in draftsman-designer on mechanics.[8]

Business career

From 1979 to 1990, Kernes worked for a number of enterprises.[7] According to his official biography his career began in 1977.[2] Kernes managed the production and trading company Acceptor from 1992 to 1994.[7] He then became the chairman at CJSC NPK-Holding until 1999. Kernes was then first deputy director of the Kharkiv branch of the Trading House Gas of Ukraine till 2001.[7] He then became CEO at NPK-Holding till 2006.[7]

Kernes had a criminal record for theft and fraud; according to him the accusations were "partly fabricated" by "his enemies".[9][10]

Political career

Kernes in 2008

In 1998 Kernes was first elected into the Kharkiv city council and served three terms there.[2][7] Between April and May 2002 Kernes was the secretary of Kharkiv City Council.[7] In the city council he founded and lead the non-party deputy group "New Kharkiv - New Opportunities."[6]

In November 2004 he supported the Orange Revolution.[11] He came out to condemn the actions taken by the regional governor Yevhen Kushnaryov. In 2006 he was elected to the Kharkiv City Council on the list of the Party of Regions, as member of the party.[2] In April 2006 Kernes became the secretary of Kharkiv City Council.[7][12]

Since 2010 after Mikhail Dobkin had been appointed to the post of the head of the Kharkiv regional state administration, Kernes had been the secretary of city council, the acting mayor of Kharkiv (March 2010 – 24 November 2010). In 2010 he had his candidacy nominated for the Party of Regions in the elections to local authorities. In October Kernes was elected as the mayor of Kharkiv with a small, controversial margin.[3][13][14] On 24 November 2010 he took the oath and entered the post in early December 2010.[7]

In January 2014, Kernes awarded himself a 25% pay raise.[15]

Kernes was noted for holding a strongly 'pro-Russian' stance and for being a supporter of the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.[16] During the anti-Yanukovych Euromaidan protests in late 2013 and early 2014, he was accused of organizing Antimaidan demonstrations, as well as hiring titushky (thugs that allegedly provoked and attacked Euromaidan supporters).[17]

Following the ousting of Yanukovych in February 2014, and after he and the governor of Kharkiv Oblast, Mykhailo Dobkin, had briefly found refuge in Russia,[18] Kernes was accused of alleged connections to death threats, kidnapping and torturing of participants of Euromaidan in Kharkiv and was subsequently placed under night-time house arrest.[14][19][20] This criminal case against him was dropped on 30 July 2014 "due to the serious illness of the suspect".[21] He was accused, in February 2014, by the then (more pro-Western) new Ukrainian leadership of promoting separatism.[16] However, since then he was believed to have softened this position.[16] In March 2014 he stated that he had been a "prisoner of Yanukovych's system" and that he expected "good things to come" from the new Yatsenyuk Government.[22]

Attempted assassination and re-election

On 28 April 2014, Kernes was shot once in the back while hiking by an unknown assailant using a sniper rifle.[23]

Although the wound was life-threatening, doctors performed emergency surgery and were able to stabilize him. The following day Kernes was flown to Israel for further treatment.[24] According to a report by Televiziyna Sluzhba Novyn on 10 May 2014, he was "making a quick recovery"; in the accompanying interview he stated "I'm in favor of Kharkiv remaining part of Ukraine and therefore in favor of seeing her flourish".[25] (While recovering in Israel) Kernes stated on 11 June 2014 his willingness to cooperate with the (then just inaugurated[26]) Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.[27] On 12 August 2014 he stated "Please remember these people—Kharkiv was, is and will be part of a single and indivisible Ukraine".[28] Kernes commented on the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea on 23 August 2014 saying "Crimea will return to Ukraine, I believe in it".[29] Kernes returned to Kharkiv on 17 June 2014.[30] Since the incident he used a wheelchair.[31][32]

In the October 2015 Kharkiv mayoral election Kernes was re-elected as a candidate of Revival in the first round of the election with 65.8% of the votes, with a voter turnout of 44.4%.[33][34][35]

In the July 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary election Kernes was placed in the top ten of the party list of Opposition Bloc.[36] However, the nationwide list of this party won 3.23% of the votes and thus did not overcome the 5% election barrier, keeping Kernes out of parliament.[37]

Kernes in June 2020

In June 2020 Kernes announced that he was nominated for re-election as Kharkiv mayor with his new political party Kernes Bloc — Successful Kharkiv in the October 2020 Kharkiv mayoral election.[38][39]


Kernes last public appearance was on Kharkiv City Day on 23 August 2020.[39] On 15 September the Kharkiv City Council officially denied reports that he had allegedly gone into a coma after becoming infected with COVID-19 during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ukraine.[39] It was confirmed that he was on sick leave.[39]

On 17 September 2020 Kernes was hospitalized in Germany in university hospital Charité, to be treated for his COVID-19 infection.[40] He did not appear in public since.[41][42]

Kernes won the 25 October 2020 Kharkiv mayoral election with 60.34% of the votes.[40] At the time of his election his party stated that Kernes would shortly return to Kharkiv to fulfil his duties as Mayor.[1] On 9 December 2020 Kernes was sworn in as Kharkiv Mayor without being present at the first session of the new Kharkiv City Council.[41] Two days later it was confirmed that Kernes had kidney failure.[41] Despite this the public relations department of the Kharkiv City Council stated that he "will be able to perform his duties."[41]

On 17 December 2020 the Kharkiv City Council and Kernes' friend Pavlo Fuks confirmed that Kernes had died in Berlin from complications from COVID-19.[1] On this day it was announced that due to the death of its Mayor a three-day mourning would be held in Kharkiv (all entertainment and concert events and sports competitions would be canceled), but this was scaled back to one day on 18 December 2020.[43][44]

Kernes was buried on 23 December 2020 at Kharkiv's 2nd city cemetery [uk], where famous Kharkiv residents are traditionally buried.[45] His funeral ceremony was held at Kharkiv's Annunciation Cathedral in a service that was led by the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) Metropolitan Onufriy.[45]

Personal life

Kernes' first wife was Oksana Vasilenko; the couple divorced in 1985.[46] His second wife was Oksana (née Haysinskaya).[47] Kernes was a father of three children,[2][11] including his stepson, Haysinskaya's son from her previous marriage.[46][48][49] In January 2003 Haysinskaya appealed to the police department alleging that Kernes had injured her. Subsequently, Kharkiv billboards appeared with the message "Oksana, I'm sorry!".[46]

Kernes owned 27 dogs, assorted birds, and other animals and since 2007 had lived in a Kharkiv hotel.[50] His Instagram account was described by The New York Times as "eccentric"; Kernes claimed "Of all the mayors, my Instagram account is the best".[50] He was known for actively promoting healthier living.[11]

Since they met in 1998, Kernes was a close friend of Mykhailo Dobkin – governor of Kharkiv Oblast from 2010 to 2014, mayor of Kharkiv from 2006 to 2010, past member of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) and the Party of Regions candidate in the 2014 Ukrainian presidential election.[50][51] A video (containing swearing) leaked in 2007 of Kernes instructing Dobkin is famous in Ukraine and has created a few national catchphrases.[52]

In line with new anti-corruption rules, which compel all senior public officials to declare their wealth in an electronic database, Kernes declared in October 2016 that he owned more than $1.6m in hard currency.[53]

Kernes was widely known as "Gepa"[18][54]


  • The Order of Merit third class (5 July 2012) – For the significant personal contribution to the preparation and conduct of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship final in Ukraine, successful implementation of infrastructural projects, law and order and public safety guarantee during the tournament, improvement of international Ukraine authority, high professionalism[55]
  • The Kharkiv regional state administration certificate[2]
  • The Badge of Honor 'Slobozhyanskaya Slava', "For diligence to 350 years of Kharkiv foundation"[2]
  • The Medal '60th anniversary of the Battle of Kursk'[2]
  • The Medal 'For active participation in the veteran's movement'[2]
  • The XVII annual award 'Person of the Year 2012' in the category of 'City Head of the Year'[56]


  1. Kharkiv mayor Kernes dies, Ukrinform (17 December 2020)
    Помер Геннадій Кернес: мер Харкова, який виграв вибори з реанімації, BBC Ukrainian (17 December 2020) (in Ukrainian)
  2. (in Russian) Short bio of Hennadiy Kernes, LIGA
  3. (in Ukrainian) Keys to cities. What is the secret of longevity of mayors, The Ukrainian Week (10 August 2020)
  4. Prominent Ukrainian politician dies from COVID-19 complications, Reuters (17 December 2020)
  5. Popular Ukrainian mayor Gennady Kernes survived a sniper attack but succumbed to COVID, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (18 December 2020); quote = "Kernes — who has said that he is proud to be Jewish, despite being nonobservant and married to a non-Jewish woman"
  6. (in Russian) Kernes, Gennady Adolfovich, TASS (encyclopaedia)
  7. "Kernes Hennadiy Adolfovych, Personal file". slovoidilo.ua. Archived from the original on 29 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
  8. (in Ukrainian) Meet Hennadiy Kernes. He is the main contender for the mayor of Kharkiv by Arkady Schultz (Аркадій Шульц. Знайомтеся: Геннадій Адольфович. Ким є основний претендент на крісло мера Харкова), The Ukrainian Week, № 40 (153) (1 October 2010)
  9. "Mayor of Ukrainian town wounded by gunfire while riding a bicycle". TSN (in Russian). 28 April 2014.
  10. "Кернес Геннадий Адольфович - мэр Харькова - биография - РЕДПОСТ". redpost.com.ua.
  11. "Кернеса подстрелили – Жизнь в Украине. Последние новости и интересные события Украины". www.depo.ua.
  12. "Украина - Кернес Геннадий Адольфович - официальная биография мэра Харькова". DailyUA.
  13. "Biography of Hennadiy Kernes" Official Hennadiy Kernes' Webcite
  14. "Hennadiy Kernes - Kharkiv Mayor"
  15. (in Ukrainian) "Кернес вирішив, що в січні непогано попрацював, і виписав собі премію", Ukrayinska Pravda, 13 February 2014; retrieved 28 April 2014.
  16. Mayor of Ukraine's Second-largest City Shot UNN
  17. "Mayor of Ukraine's 2nd-biggest city shot in the back", New York Post, 28 April 2014; accessed 28 August 2014.
  18. "Hennadiy Kernes - Full Biography"[permanent dead link]
  19. Court places Kernes under night-time house arrest, Interfax-Ukraine, 14 March 2014.
  20. "The interrogation of Kernes will be held in the Prosecutor General’s Office" Archived 2014-04-30 at the Wayback Machine, Харьков Новостное Агентство, 19 March 2014.
  21. (in Ukrainian) Cases against Kernes stopped, Ukrayinska Pravda (30 July 2014)
    The State Office of Public Prosecutor stopped a legal investigation against Kernes from - for diseases, Преступности.НЕТ (30 July 2014)
  22. "Kharkiv's Kernes justifies his 180-degree political turn by saying he was 'prisoner' of Yanukovych system", MY-MEDIA, 6 March 2014; accessed 28 August 2014.
  23. "Ukraine crisis: US and EU to intensify Russia sanctions". BBC. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
    Ukraine mayor in critical condition after he was shot in the back, Los Angeles Times (28 April 2014)
  24. Report on assassination attempt, New York Times, 30 April 2014.
  25. Wounded Jewish Ukraine mayor: 'I will return to Kharkiv', Ynetnews, 10 May 2014.
  26. Lukas Alpert (29 May 2014). "Petro Poroshenko to Be Inaugurated as Ukraine President June 7". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
    Rada decides to hold inauguration of Poroshenko on 7 June @ 10:00 Archived 2014-06-03 at the Wayback Machine, Interfax-Ukraine, 3 June 2014.
    Poroshenko sworn in as Ukrainian president, Interfax-Ukraine, 7 June 2014.
  27. (in Ukrainian) "Kernes is ready to assist the new government", Ukrayinska Pravda, 11 June 2014.
  28. (in Ukrainian) "Kernes warned: There are no referendums and tumors in Kharkiv", Ukrayinska Pravda, 3 August 2014.
  29. (in Russian) "A monument to Sahaidachny in Kharkov", sq.com.ua, 23 August 2014.
  30. "Kernes returns to Kharkiv", Interfax-Ukraine, 17 June 2014.
  31. https://news.yahoo.com/photos/kharkivs-current-mayor-gennadiy-kernes-center-sitting-wheelchair-photo-144837527.html
  32. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/502094.html
  33. (in Ukrainian) "Revival" will send the mayor of Kharkiv Kernes, and the seat of mayor of Odessa will fight Fabricant, UNIAN (23 September 2015)
  34. Kernes wins elections for Kharkiv mayor with over 65% of vote, Interfax-Ukraine (31 October 2015)
  35. "Five lessons from the local elections in Ukraine". ECFR.
  36. "Вибори Ради: у списку Опоблоку мери 5 міст". Українська правда.
  37. "Новинський і ще 5 "опоблоківців" проходять у Раду, а Колесніков – ні". Українська правда.
  38. The first donors appeared in the Kernes Bloc - Successful Kharkiv party (Updated), Civil movement "Chesno" (24 June 2020) (in Ukrainian)
  39. Kharkiv City Council denies reports on mayor's COVID-19 coma, UNIAN (15 September 2020)
  40. (in Ukrainian) Kharkiv, the votes in the mayoral election were counted: who wins and whether there will be a second round, UNIAN (4 November 2020)
  41. (in Ukrainian) Kernes had kidney failure, Ukrayinska Pravda (11 December 2020)
  42. (in Ukrainian) Kernes was re-elected mayor of Kharkiv - a voter, Ukrayinska Pravda (4 November 2020)
  43. (in Ukrainian) A mourning was announced in Kharkiv, Ukrayinska Pravda (17 December 2020)
  44. (in Ukrainian) Life in Kharkiv after the mayor's death, The Ukrainian Week (18 December 2020)
  45. (in Ukrainian) Kharkiv say goodbye to Kernes: 400 policemen of protection, and Onufriy buried him, Ukrayinska Pravda (23 December 2020)
    (in Russian) Hennadiy Kernes was buried (photo, video), SQ (23 December 2020)
  46. (in Russian) Oksana Haysinskaya and Hennadiy Kernes, Комментарии:, 2 March 2012.
  47. (in Ukrainian) "Wife and son Kernes happy holiday in the Maldives", Tablo ID, 30 January 2014.
  48. "ТОП-20 самых влиятельных женщин Харькова (ФОТО) | Восточный Дозор". kharkov.dozor.ua (in Russian). Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  49. ФОТОФАКТ. Жена Кернеса похвасталась спортивной фигурой. www.segodnya.ua (in Russian). Retrieved 2017-07-03.
  50. "Wounded Mayor Is Both Colorful and Powerful, Loved and Loathed", The New York Times, 28 April 2014.
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    "Ukraine: Party of Regions nominates Mykhailo Dobkin as presidential candidate, Euronews, 29 March 2014.
    Poroshenko Bloc to have greatest number of seats in parliament Archived 2014-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, Ukrinform (8 November 2014)
    People's Front 0.33% ahead of Poroshenko Bloc with all ballots counted in Ukraine elections - CEC Archived 2014-11-12 at the Wayback Machine, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
    Poroshenko Bloc to get 132 seats in parliament - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
    (in Ukrainian) Full electoral list of Opposition Bloc, Ukrayinska Pravda (19 September 2014)
  52. When politicians fall foul of social media, BBC News (29 September 2017)
  53. Ukraine politicians' huge cash piles exposed in reform drive, BBC News (28 October 2016)
  54. (in Ukrainian) "Dobkin and Kernes significant move on the other wheels", Tablo ID (22 September 2011)
  55. Decree of the President of Ukraine № 435/2012 Archived 2012-12-03 at WebCite, president.gov.ua; accessed 28 August 2014
  56. "404 | Официальный сайт Харьковского городского совета, городского головы, исполнительного комитета". city.kharkov.ua.