Home News Slovak leader’s assassination attempt unnerves Europe

Slovak leader’s assassination attempt unnerves Europe

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A gunman shot Slovak Prime Minister Roberto Fico multiple times at close range on Wednesday in the worst attack on a European leader in decades. Fico is known for defying EU leaders.

Fico was shot as he came out of the Palace of Culture in the central Slovak town of Handlova and greeted a small group of people in Bankov Square. He was taken to a nearby hospital and then airlifted to another hospital for emergency surgery.

Hours later, Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC that Mr Fico’s condition was no longer life-threatening and that he hoped the prime minister would survive.

The gunman, identified by Slovak news media as a 71-year-old poet, was immediately pushed to the ground by security personnel.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told a news conference that Fico was shot five times and that preliminary evidence “clearly points to political motives.” Asked to name the attacker, he said: “Not today.”

The assassination attempt sparked fears that Europe’s increasingly polarized and virulent political debate has turned violent.

Mr. Fico began his three-decade political career as a leftist but moved to the right over the years. He served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018 before returning to power in last year’s election. After being ousted in street protests in 2018, he was re-elected on a platform of social conservatism, nationalism and the promise of generous welfare programs.

His opposition to military support for Ukraine, friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and other positions have excluded him from the European mainstream. Like his ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Fico has often criticized the EU.

Like Orban and the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders, Fico is willing to portray himself as a combative fighter for ordinary people, a direct enemy of liberal elites and a vocal opponent of immigrants, especially Muslims, from outside Europe. Immigrants) stronghold.

Critics accuse Fico of undermining the independence of the news media, oppose his efforts to limit foreign funding of civil society organizations, and say he poses a threat to democracy. They accuse Fico of trying to return Slovakia to the days of Soviet bloc repression.

Fico’s political career appeared to be over after he was ousted in 2018, but he found new support last year by promoting anti-LGBTQ stances, attacking the European Union as a threat to national sovereignty and opposing continued arms supplies to Ukraine.

During his tenure as prime minister, Slovakia became the first country to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, but non-military aid continued.

His return to power last year reflects a broader trend across much of Europe: declining support for center-left and center-right parties that calmly swapped positions after elections and agreed on most things.

The shooting was captured on video, which showed Fico, 59, approaching a small group of people behind a waist-high metal barrier when an older man stepped forward and fired a pistol from a few feet away.

In a video released by public broadcaster Slovak Radio and confirmed by The New York Times, five distinct gunshots can be heard.

Following the first loud bang, Mr. Fico doubled over and fell backwards on the bench before more sounds were heard. The security guard then pushed him into a black Audi a few feet away and half-carried him to the back door of the car.

a post The prime minister’s official verified Facebook page said Mr Fico was in “life-threatening danger”. “A decision will be made in the coming hours,” the post said. Government officials did not say where on his body he was struck.

Police had no immediate comment on the attack, which was the most serious attempt on the life of a European head of government since Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djinjic took office. Assassinated in 2003.

The shooting drew unanimous condemnation from world leaders, including President Biden, who called it a “horrible act of violence,” while Putin praised Fico as a “brave and strong man.”

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, whose office is largely ceremonial, said in a statement that “the shooting of the prime minister is first of all an attack on humanity, but also an attack on democracy.”

Some of Fico’s allies in parliament said his liberal opponents helped create the atmosphere for the shooting.

Michal Simecka, chairman of the opposition Slovak Progress Party, said he too felt the “horror” of the attack but warned against spreading “disinformation” about the attackers. In a post on social media platform X, he stressed that the attacker was not a member of his movement or any member of his political party.

Mr Fico Resign as Prime Minister The 2018 murders of a journalist who exposed government corruption and his fiancée sparked weeks of massive demonstrations. Protesters say the government is not interested in solving the case. Several people were later convicted of involvement in the murder, but a businessman accused of masterminding the murder was acquitted.

Report contributors: Gaya Gupta, Pavol Strba, Daniel Victor, Lauren Leatherby, Matthew M’Poke Biggar and Martina Steeves Gridnev.

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