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Mayor of Ukrainian city shot; West prepares more sanctions

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By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Victoria Butenko

(CNN) -- The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv underwent emergency surgery after being shot in the back, city officials and police said Monday, amid continuing unrest in the region.

The attack on Mayor Gennady Kernes happened around noon local time, the Kharkiv city office official website said. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the shooting.

After a two-hour operation, Kernes was out of surgery but in critical condition, the city office said.

"The surgery was successful. His life-threatening condition is expected to go on for several days," a statement said. "He was unconscious when brought to the hospital."

The online statement also said a bullet casing was found at the scene.

Police said an investigation unit was trying to determine the circumstances of the shooting.

In a major challenge to Kiev's new leaders, armed rebels have captured towns and government buildings across eastern Ukraine and are holding a team of European monitors hostage.

Western nations accuse Moscow of supporting the separatist gunmen who are occupying official buildings in cities across the region.

Sanctions

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions against seven Russian government officials and 17 companies linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin in its latest action to punish Moscow for its actions in Ukraine.

The White House said the seven Russians, including two from Putin's inner circle, are now subject to a freeze on any assets they hold in the United States and a ban on U.S. travel.

In addition, the United States will deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russian military capabilities. The Commerce and State Departments will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions, the White House said in a statement.

 "The sanctions build on the ones that were already in place. We're moving forward with an expanded list of individuals," U.S. President Barack Obama earlier told reporters in Manila, Philippines

The move, Obama said, was to spur Putin to "walk the walk, not just talk the talk" in resolving the crisis in Ukraine.

If the latest round of sanctions does not work, the next phase could target economic sectors like banking, Obama said.

The European Union also is expected to impose sanctions Monday on about 15 Russian officials who are believed to be undermining democracy and creating chaos in Ukraine, according to Western diplomats. The sanctions will include asset freezes and travel bans.

Observer freed

Pro-Russian separatists holding a European military observer team in eastern Ukraine released one of the observers for medical reasons Sunday, shortly after parading them before cameras.

At least seven of the inspectors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe appeared at a news conference staged by Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-declared mayor of Slavyansk, who referred to them as "prisoners of war."

The freed observer was from Sweden and had been suffering from diabetes, Ponomarev spokeswoman Stella Khorosheva told CNN. Michael Bociurkiw, an OSCE spokesman in Kiev, called it "a welcome development."

The monitors were seized Friday outside Slavyansk, one of the flashpoints in the standoff between Ukraine's interim government and pro-Russian factions challenging its authority in the east. They said that although they have diplomatic status, they went along with Sunday's news conference because the mayor asked them to.

Germany strongly criticized the group's appearance before the media.

The "parading of OSCE observers and Ukrainian security forces as prisoners is abhorrent and a flagrant violation of their human dignity," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement.

He added that Russia had a duty to "influence" the separatists so that the other members of the mission could be freed as soon as possible.

The OSCE Permanent Council will hold a special meeting focusing on Ukraine later Monday.

Putin has repeatedly criticized what he says is Kiev's use of force against Ukrainian civilians.
   
 CNN's Gul Tuysuz, Elise Labott, Kevin Liptak and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.
   
 The-CNN-Wire
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