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Slovakia’s prime minister is expected to survive assassination attempt, deputy says

The police have arrested the alleged shooter, according to local media. The populist leader was in the city of Handlova when four shots were fired

Security officers move Slovak PM Robert Fico in a car after he was injured in a shooting incident, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024.
Security officers move Slovak PM Robert Fico in a car after he was injured in a shooting incident, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024.Radovan Stoklasa (REUTERS)

Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times and gravely wounded Wednesday, but his deputy prime minister said he believed Fico would survive. The prime minister had been greeting supporters at an event when the attempted assassination took place, shocking the small country and reverberating across Europe weeks before an election.

“I guess in the end he will survive,” Tomas Taraba told the BBC, adding: “He’s not in a life-threatening situation at this moment.”

Doctors fought for Fico’s life several hours after the pro-Russian leader, 59, was hit in the abdomen, Defense Minister Robert Kalina told reporters at the hospital where Fico was being treated.

Reports on TA3, a Slovakian TV station, said that Fico, 59, was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital, where the leader was meeting with supporters. A suspect has been detained, it said.

Police sealed off the scene, and Fico was taken to a hospital in Banska Bystrica.

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

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico arrives for a cabinet's away-from-home session in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, Wednesday, May, 15, 2024.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico arrives for a cabinet's away-from-home session in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, Wednesday, May, 15, 2024.Radovan Stoklasa (AP/ LaPresse)

Deputy speaker of parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of Slovakia’s Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

Slovakia’s major opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, canceled a planned protest against a controversial government plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give the government full control of public radio and television.

“We absolutely and strongly condemn violence and today’s shooting of Premier Robert Fico,” said Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. “At the same time we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps which could contribute to further increasing the tension.”

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

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

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

Critics worried Slovakia under Fico would abandon the country’s pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

Condemnations of political violence quickly came from leaders across Europe, although no motive for the attack was immediately apparent.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she described as a “vile attack.”

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” von der Leyen said in a post on X.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the incident “shocking,” adding “I wish the premier to get well soon. We cannot tolerate violence, there’s no place for it in society.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia till 1992.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the social media network X: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

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