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Thursday June 13, 2024

Slovakia's PM Robert Fico's condition stabilises after surviving assassination attempt

Slovakia media says attack was carried out by 71-year-old former security guard who shot premier five times

By Reuters
May 16, 2024
Slovakias Prime Minister Robert Fico gestures during a press conference. — AFP/File
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico gestures during a press conference. — AFP/File 

BANSKA BYSTRICA: Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is no longer in a life-threatening condition after surviving an assassination attempt on Wednesday.

Speaking to the BBC, country's Deputy PM and Environment Minister Tomas Taraba said that Fico's surgery "went well" adding, "He's not in a life-threatening situation at this moment".

As per the Deputy PM, one bullet went through Fico's stomach and a second hit a joint.

Fico, 59, survived an assassination attempt and was left in critical condition and had to go through surgery after being shot five times while leaving a government meeting a day earlier.

The shooting in the central Slovak town of Handlova, which Slovak media said was carried out by a 71-year-old man, stunned the small central European nation and drew international condemnation.

After the attack, Fico was rushed to a hospital in Handlova where he had been chairing a government meeting. He was then transported by helicopter to the regional capital Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment, it said, adding that his condition was too serious for him to be taken to Bratislava.

Security officials detain a person after the shooting of Slovak PM Robert Fico in Handlova, Slovakia on May 15. 2024. — Reuters
Security officials detain a person after the shooting of Slovak PM Robert Fico in Handlova, Slovakia on May 15. 2024. — Reuters

As per the Deputy PM, one bullet went through Fico's stomach and a second hit a joint.

The shooting in the central Slovak town of Handlova, which Slovak media said was carried out by a 71-year-old man, stunned the small central European nation and drew international condemnation.

After the attack, Fico was rushed to a hospital in Handlova where he had been chairing a government meeting. He was then transported by helicopter to the regional capital Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment, it said, adding that his condition was too serious for him to be taken to Bratislava.

A Reuters witness heard shots as Fico exited a building to shake hands with a crowd of people who had been waiting to greet him. Police then wrestled a man to the ground.

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.

News outlet Aktuality.sk cited his son as saying his father was the legal holder of a gun licence.

"I have absolutely no idea what my father intended, what he planned, what happened," it quoted the son as saying.

Slovakia, a member of NATO and the European Union has little history of political violence. Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden joined Slovakia's EU partners in expressing shock and condemnation of the shooting.

Describing the shooting as a "monstrous" crime, Putin said in a telegram sent to Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova: "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."

Meanwhile, President Biden said: "We condemn this horrific act of violence."

The country of 5.4 million has seen polarised political debate in recent years, including the hard-fought presidential election last month that helped tighten Fico's grip on power.

Since returning as prime minister last October, Fico has shifted policy quickly. Opposition critics call it a power grab.

His government has scaled back support for Ukraine while opening dialogue with Russia sought to weaken punishments for corruption and dismantled a special prosecutor's office, and is revamping the RTVS public broadcaster despite calls to protect media freedom.

Fico has long been critical of Slovakia's mainstream media, refusing to speak to some outlets. Members of his party blasted media and opposition actions in recent months.