The corrupt late-mayor of Kharkiv, a city in Eastern Ukraine and once Ukraine’s capital, died in December. He spent the last few years of his life in a wheelchair after being shot in the back in a failed assassination attempt. One rumor is that the assassination attempt was revenge for failing to deliver Kharkiv into the hands of the Russians during the 2014 invasion, but he was involved in so much corruption that anything is possible.
Kernes was literally a three-card monty dealer at a bazaar earlier in his life. Yes, Ukrainians voted him in as mayor — multiple times, no less. There seems to be a preference for individual strong men, especially in the East.
I caught rumor of the following story that involved mayor Kernes:
Most of mayors of major Ukrainian cities gathered for the birthday of a president — I’m not sure if it was Poroshenko, or Yanukovych. As a gift, one mayor from a Western City brought expensive alcohol and an old, first edition book by a historical Ukrainian figure. Kernes was lively and outspoken as the mayors arrived. He only understood Russian, and spoke in this aggressive slang of Soviet strong men which is impossible to convey in English.
“Everything is take of,” announced Kernes in his Russian slang. “The gift will be this holy icon,” he explained waving it around. “$10,000 from each of you.”
After some consideration, the Western mayor gently explained that he hadn’t agreed to it, and that he already brought a gift.
“What are you talking about?” Demanded Kernes. “It has been blessed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Listen to me, I arranged everything. It will be $10,000.”
The western mayor politely refused, and for a while Kernes was sour, but then returned to his usual self.