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Slovakia PM ‘shot five times’ in assassination attempt

PM rushed away after shooting attempt

Source: X

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico is “fighting for his life” after he was gunned down on the street in an assassination attempt that has sent shockwaves across the world.

The gunman fired several shots at Fico, 59, as the populist leader was leaving a government meeting he had been chairing in the town of Handlova.

The Slovak PM was hit five times – reportedly in the stomach, arm and leg – and was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery.

On Thursday morning (AEST) he had been undergoing surgery for more than three hours and the “situation is bad”, government ministers said.

Local media said the shooter was a 71-year-old man.

Slovak Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said authorities suspected the attack was politically motivated.

“Slovakia is experiencing the worst day of its democracy,” he wrote on Facebook.

“For the first time in the 31 years of our democratic sovereign republic, it happened that someone decided to express a political opinion not in an election, but with a gun on the street.”

A Reuters witness heard shots as Fico exited a building to shake hands with a crowd who had been waiting to greet him.

The injured PM’s assistants dragged him into a nearby car and he was transported to a helicopter before being flown to a major hospital at Banksa Bystrica.

The alleged shooter was wrestled to the ground by the public and police, according to media reports.

The suspected gunman is apprehended. Photo: Getty

Slovak news media reported the shooter was a former security guard at a shopping mall, an author of three collections of poetry and a member of the Slovak Society of Writers.

Atkuality.sk cited the man’s son as saying he had a gun licence.

“I have absolutely no idea what my father intended, what he planned, what happened,” news outlet Aktuality.sk quoted the shooter’s son as saying.

Slovakia, a member of NATO and the European Union, has little history of political violence.

Fico is known as a progressive populist leader who returned as prime minister last October for the fourth time. He has drawn criticism in some quarters for taking a more pro-Russian stance in the Ukraine war.

He has also initiated reforms in criminal law and the media that have raised concerns over the rule of law and prompted street protests.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden joined Slovakia’s EU partners in expressing shock and condemnation of the shooting.

“I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to survive this difficult situation,” Putin said, while describing the shooting as a “monstrous” crime.

Biden offered US help to Slovakia, saying: “We condemn this horrific act of violence.”

Fico is transported from a helicopter by medics. Photo: Getty

Fico’s close ally Lubos Blaha, deputy parliament speaker and deputy chairman of the Prime Minister’s SMER-SSD party, blamed what he called the “liberal media” and opposition for creating an atmosphere that led to the shooting.

“For SMER-SSD, I want to sharply condemn what happened today in Handlova and at the same time express heavy disgust over what you have committed here in the past years,” Blaha said.

“You, liberal media and political opposition. What hatred you spread against Robert Fico.”

Slovakia’s biggest opposition party Progressive Slovakia cancelled a planned protest against government public broadcaster changes planned for Wednesday night.

“We call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps that could contribute to an escalation of tension,” Michal Simecka, the leader of the pro-European Union Progressive Slovakia party, said.

Robert Fico was elected to a fourth term as prime minister in October. Photo: Getty

During a three-decade career, Fico has moved between the pro-European mainstream and nationalistic positions opposed to EU and US policies.

He has also shown a willingness to change course depending on public opinion or changed political realities.

Fico has grown increasingly critical of military support for Ukraine in its war with invading Russian forces and has expressed opposition to allowing Ukraine to join NATO in the future.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she described as a vile attack on Fico.

-with AAP

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