Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico’s condition stable after assassination attempt

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Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico is in stable condition after sustaining life-threatening gunshot wounds on Wednesday in an attempted assassination following a cabinet meeting, officials said.

Fico, a populist leader accused of being Kremlin-friendly, has been prime minister since last year.

“Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Robert Fico”, the government said in a post on social media.

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He was transported by helicopter to the hospital where he underwent urgent care, the statement added.

Fico was shot multiple times, said a post on his official Facebook page.

“We confirm the attack on the prime minister,” police spokesman Matej Neumann told AFP.

Handlova local hospital director Marta Eckhardtova said “Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic.”

She was unable to describe his injuries.

“I was very shocked ... fortunately as far as I know the operation went well - and I guess in the end he will survive ... he’s not in a life threatening situation at this moment,” deputy prime minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC.

The Dennik N daily said its reporter heard several shots fired and then saw security guards lift the premier off the ground and into a car.

Suspect detained

A 71-year-old writer was detained for his involvement in the shooting of the prime minister., the interior minister said Wednesday, after media identified the man.

“I think I can confirm this, yes,” Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told reporters when asked about reports identifying the man detained at the scene of the shooting in the town of Handlova.

A grey haired suspect was seen being handcuffed on the ground just after Fico was shot several times after a government meeting in Handlova.

Media reports said the suspect was a founder of the DUHA (Rainbow) Literary Club and was from the town of Levice.

The reports, which also named him, said he has written three poetry collections and is a member of the official Association of Slovak Writers.

The association confirmed on Facebook that the man had been a member since 2015, adding that if his identity as the suspected shooter was confirmed “the membership of this despicable person will be immediately cancelled”.

The suspect’s son told Slovak news site that he had “absolutely no idea what father was thinking, what he was planning, why it happened”.

He said his father was a legally registered gun owner.

When asked if he felt any hatred toward Fico, the son said: “I’ll tell you this: he didn’t vote for him. That’s all I can say about it.”

Vlasta Kollarova, head of a local library in the man’s hometown told Dennik N daily: “He was rebellious when he was young, but not aggressive”.

Several political statements by the man, who AFP has chosen not to name, could be found on social media.

“The world is full of violence and weapons. People seem to be going crazy,” he said in a video eight years ago posted online.

In the video, he also spoke about concern over immigration and “hatred and extremism” and said European governments “have no alternative to this chaos”.

He also said in the video that he had founded a “Movement Against Violence” in Levice.

The movement, which also has its Facebook page, defines itself as “an emerging political party whose goal is to prevent the spread of violence in society. To prevent war in Europe and the spread of hatred.”

Attack condemned

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova said she was “utterly shocked by today’s brutal and reckless attack on Slovakia’s prime minister... which I condemn in (the) strongest possible terms.”

“I wish him a lot of strength in this critical moment and early recovery,” she said on X, formerly Twitter.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also called the news of the attack “shocking.”

“I hope the prime minister will get well as soon as possible. We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society,” he said on X.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: “Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

As well as his current stint as premier, Fico also headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

Since he was elected last October, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighboring Ukraine.

He has notably questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for a compromise with Russia.

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public television and radio.

At a press conference following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico’s Smer party lashed out against his critics.

“You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred,” Blaha said.

With agencies

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