Protesters take control of yet another city in Donetsk region

The Mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city was critically wounded in a sniper attack on Monday in a further sign of a rapidly deteriorating situation in the country’s troubled southeast.

Hennady Kernes, Mayor of Kharkiv, was shot in the back by an unidentified sniper during his routine morning cycling, city officials said. The Mayor survived a two-hour operation, but doctors said his life was still in danger.

Kharkiv in recent weeks has been the scene of pro-and anti-government demonstrations. Hours before the Mayor was shot, thousands of Ukrainian ultra-nationalists attacked a smaller group of pro-federalisation protesters in the city, severely beating many of them and injuring 14 demonstrators.

The attack on the Mayor took place despite the presence of about 11,000 troops and security personnel deployed in Ukraine's Russian-speaking southeast for an “anti-terrorist operation.”

Anti-government revolt is spreading in eastern Ukraine, with protesters taking control of yet another city in Donetsk region.

Armed gunmen seized the police headquarters and administrative building in the industrial city of Kostantynivka, not far from Sloviansk, which is the flashpoint of anti-government protests.

The move came shortly after the city council in Kostantynivka voted on Monday to defy the Kiev authorities and join a referendum on the region’s autonomy on May 11 announced by the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

In Donetsk itself unarmed demonstrators occupied the local television centre and forced it to restart broadcasting Russian TV channels that had been banned by Kiev.

In the neighbouring Luhansk Region activists on Sunday presented the Ukrainian authorities with an ultimatum to declare amnesty for protesters and hold a referendum on the status of the province. The activists gave Kiev two days to accept their demands or face “active protests.”

Meanwhile, Russia has vowed to retaliate in response to the new U.S. sanctions. Moscow had earlier threatened to penalise U.S. companies operating in Russia, dump American treasuries and accelerate the shift in its foreign trade from the dollar to national currencies.

Curbs won’t help: China

In a major boost for Russia, China has reiterated its opposition to sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China “has consistently opposed threatening or imposing sanctions.”

“We believe that sanctions are not conducive to an issue’s resolution, and may worsen tensions,” Mr. Qin told a daily news briefing on Monday.

“We call on all sides to keep using dialogue and negotiation to appropriately resolve disagreements, to push for a political resolution to the Ukraine crisis. Sanctions are not in any party’s interests,” the Chinese spokesman said.

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