Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico injured in shooting

by 24britishtvMay 15, 2024, 6 p.m. 21
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Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, is in a “life-threatening condition” after being injured in a shooting, the Slovakian government has said.

Reports on the Slovakian TV channel TA3 said Fico, 59, was hit in the stomach after several shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlová, about 90 miles (150km) north-east of the capital, Bratislava.

They said a suspect had been detained. Police sealed off the scene.

In a message posted to the prime minister’s Facebook account, the government said the leader had been “shot multiple times” and “the next few hours will decide”.

The post said Fico was in need of urgent treatment and that he had been transported by helicopter to Banská Bystrica, as it would take too long to return to Bratislava.

Speaking to Reuters, a spokesperson for the country’s interior ministry described the incident as an assassination attempt.

A spokesperson from the hospital said Fico had been conscious while being transported to the hospital and that he was being treated for bullet wounds.

The country’s deputy speaker of parliament, Ľuboš Blaha, confirmed the incident during a session of parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the TASR news agency said.

The leader had been meeting a small crowd of supporters when the shooting occurred, the news outlet Aktuality reported.

A witness told Reuters he heard several shots and that he saw a man being detained by police.

The news site Denník N said one of its reporters heard several shots and then saw the prime minister being lifted from the ground by security guards and put into a car, although they did not see the incident itself.

Zuzana Čaputová, Slovakia’s president, condemned the “brutal” attack. “I’m shocked,” she said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

Fico, a veteran politician, returned to power in Slovakia after elections last year, fuelled in part by promises to halt military aid to Ukraine, criticisms of sanctions targeting Russia and campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights.

As news of the shooting broke, Slovakia’s major opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, said they had cancelled plans to protest against a controversial overhaul of public broadcasting that they argued would give the government full control of public radio and television.

Progressive Slovakia’s leader, Michal Šimečka, said on social media: “I am shocked and appalled by the shooting of Prime Minister Robert Fico in Handlová. We unequivocally and strongly condemn any violence.”

During a career that spanned three decades, Fico had begun to embrace more extreme positions in recent years, from strident criticism of western allies to threats to veto any future Nato membership invitation for Ukraine.

Peter Pellegrini, Slovakia’s president-elect and an ally of Fico, described the incident as an assassination attempt and characterised it as a “threat to everything that has adorned Slovak democracy so far”.

He said: “I am horrified by where the hatred towards another political opinion can lead. We don’t have to agree on everything, but there are plenty of ways to express our disagreement democratically and legally.”

Condemnations of the attack were swift to pour in from across Europe. Among the first to comment was Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister. “We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society,” Fiala said on social media.

The British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said he was “shocked to hear this awful news”, while Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the attack on Fico as “appalling”.

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister and a close ally of Fico, said he was “deeply shocked by the heinous attack”. “We pray for his health and quick recovery! God bless him and his country!” he posted on X.

From Germany, where three elected officials were recently assaulted in less than a week, the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, expressed shock, saying: “News of the cowardly assassination attempt on Slovakian prime minister Fico shocks me deeply. Violence must have no place in European politics.”

Austria’s conservative chancellor, Karl Nehammer, said: “Hate and violence must not be allowed to take hold in our democracies and must be fought with the utmost determination!”

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “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.”

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