Home News LIVE UPDATES: Attempt to assassinate Slovak leader shocks polarized nation

LIVE UPDATES: Attempt to assassinate Slovak leader shocks polarized nation

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Robert Fico, 59, has played a key role in Slovak politics since gaining independence in 1993, serving as prime minister longer than any other leader.

Slovakia is a landlocked country of approximately 5 million people that gained independence after the so-called “Velvet Revolution”. The Velvet Revolution was a series of popular non-violent protests against the Communist Party in 1989 in what was then Czechoslovakia. That year, the Berlin Wall fell, communist regimes collapsed in much of Eastern Europe, and the Cold War effectively ended.

Mr. Fico, a former member of the Communist Party during its years in power, founded the Smer party in the late 1990s. In 2006, he began the first of three terms as prime minister, serving a four-year term before switching to the opposition after his coalition’s election defeat. Fico returned to power in 2012, but mass demonstrations followed the murders of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in 2018 Resigned as prime minister in July. The protests, which shocked the country, were the largest since the Velvet Revolution. Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the government and new elections.

Slovakia ranks high independent assessment Press freedom, but protesters also seek deeper changes in the country Mr Fico oversees.

The Smer party was originally of the political left, but has increasingly embraced right-wing views on immigration and cultural issues. Much of the international discussion of Fico’s leadership in recent years has focused on his relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Slovakia’s southern neighbor. Like Orban, Fico has been a staunch critic of the EU.

after parliamentary elections Fico began his third term as prime minister last fall before undergoing heart surgery the next month. He formed a coalition government after receiving about 23% of the vote and campaigned against sanctions imposed on Russia after it began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. None of the country’s ammunition should be shipped to Ukraine, he told voters.

In a country where pro-Russian sentiment has historically been high, the stance worried EU leaders in Brussels, who expressed concern that Slovakia might form a pro-russian alliance Cooperation with Mr Orban and possibly Italian leader Giorgio Meloni would hinder Ukraine’s support in the EU. At the time, it was also seen as a sign of a clear erosion of the pro-Ukrainian bloc that had formed in Europe after the invasion.

Compared with countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, Slovakia’s military contribution to Ukraine is negligible.But last year it became one of several EU countries bordering Ukraine block imports There are fears this could harm Slovak farmers’ food supplies.

In April, Mr Fico’s ally Peter Pellegrini win a vote Became President of Slovakia. The stance was largely ceremonial, but analysts said the victory strengthened the grip of Russia-friendly political forces in Central Europe, given Pellegrini’s opposition to military and financial aid to Ukraine.

Mr. Fico was born on September 15, 1964, into a working-class family in the city of Topolčany, in what is now the Nitra region of Slovakia. He reportedly graduated from Comenius University in Bratislava in 1986 with a law degree. Slovak government website. He received his PhD from the Institute of State and Law of the Slovak Academy of Sciences and served in the military from 1986 to 1987.

Mr. Fico studied in the United States, Britain, Finland, Belgium and France, specializing in human rights and criminal law, according to the government website. He is married to lawyer and professor Svetlana Ficova, with whom he has a son. News reports in Slovakia said the couple had separated.

Corrections made

May 16, 2024

:

An earlier version of this article misspelled the Italian leader’s name. She is Georgia Meloni, not Georgia.

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