Slovakia PM Robert Fico in 'life-threatening condition' after being shot

24 days ago


Slovakia prime minister taken to hospital as President Zuzana Caputova condemns ‘brutal and ruthless’ attack.

Slovakia - Figure 1

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a “life-threatening condition” after he was wounded in a shooting, according to a statement on his official social media page.

The prime minister was shot “multiple times” in an “assassination attempt”, the statement said on Wednesday.

Fico, 59, was hit in the abdomen after several shots were fired in the town of Handlova, local media reported. Police sealed off the scene and a suspect has been detained, according to the Dennik N news outlet and TA3, a Slovakian TV station.

The shooting occurred after Fico attended a government meeting in Handlova. The prime minister was rushed to a hospital in the town and later transported by helicopter to the city of Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment.

Fico was injured after shots were fired in the town of Handlova [File: Nadja Wohlleben/Reuters]

President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the prime minister.

“I’m shocked,” Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called the assassination attempt “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy”.

“If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardising everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovak sovereignty,” Pellegrini said.

The attack comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and right-wing parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.

European leaders, from Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, expressed shock at the shooting.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned the assault too.

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico, his family,” she said on X.

I strongly condemn the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good.

My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 15, 2024

The Slovak government was meeting in Handlova, 190 km (118 miles) northeast of Bratislava, on Wednesday as part of a tour of the country’s regions after coming to power late last year.

Fico, a third-time premier, and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-US message.

In his political career, Fico has skilfully weaved between pro-European mainstream and nationalistic anti-EU and anti-US positions, while showing a willingness to change course depending on public opinion or changed political realities.

He embraced more extreme positions over the past four years that include strident criticisms of Western allies, pledges to stop military support for Kyiv, opposition to sanctions on Russia and threats to veto any future NATO membership invite for Ukraine.

Critics have raised concerns that Slovakia under Fico would follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

Alena Kudzko, vice president of Globsec, a security policy think tank, said the shooting was “definitely not something that anybody in Slovakia expected”.

Kudzko noted how the country has been polarised over the past year amid heightened political tension, especially in the run-up to the elections.

“But nobody … called for violence in the country,” she told Al Jazeera. “Quite the opposite, everybody right now is trying to unite and send a coherent message, that political violence is not something that we support,” she added.



Al Jazeera and news agencies

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