Home News What you need to know about the shooting of Slovakia’s prime minister

What you need to know about the shooting of Slovakia’s prime minister

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Prime Minister Robert Fico Slovakia’s president was shot five times on Wednesday in the worst attack on a European leader in decades. Officials said the act was a politically motivated assassination attempt, raising concerns that Europe’s increasingly polarized and vitriolic politics could turn violent.

Fico, a veteran populist politician, underwent hours of emergency surgery after being seriously injured in a small town in central Slovakia. Hospital and government officials said Thursday that Fico’s condition had stabilized overnight but remained serious.

Here’s what we know about the shooting.

Video from the scene showed Fico shot to death on Bannikov Square in the center of Handlova town, where the prime minister had held a government meeting.

The attacker can be seen in the video standing with others behind a metal fence before taking a step forward and firing at Fico who came to greet them from a few feet away.

Mr. Fico hunched over and fell backwards on a bench as security guards pushed him into a black car. Fico was airlifted to a hospital in Banská Bystrica, a city near Handlova, according to Slovak officials.

Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said Thursday morning outside the hospital where the prime minister was being treated that Fico’s condition stabilized overnight and that doctors were performing more surgeries to improve his condition.

Hospital director Miriam Lapunikova said Fico underwent five hours of surgery for multiple gunshot wounds. She said his condition remained “very serious” and he was still in intensive care.

Slovak news media said the arrested gunman was a 71-year-old poet, but authorities did not reveal the suspect’s identity. However, they said preliminary evidence suggested the action was “clearly” politically motivated.

Slovak Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said: “For the first time in the 31 years of our democratic and sovereign republic, someone has decided to carry guns in the streets instead of expressing political views through elections. ” wrote on Facebook.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova called the assassination attempt an “attack on democracy.”

Estock said more information about the shooter would be released “in the coming days.”

In Slovakia, the assassination attempt heightened polarization and added acrimony to an already divided political landscape, with Fico’s allies accusing opponents of having “blood on their hands.” Lubos Blaha, a representative of Fico’s party Smer, said opponents and what he called the “liberal media” had “built a gallows” for the prime minister.

Abroad, the shootings drew condemnation from world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir V. Putin. Putin praised Fico for expressing pro-Russian views and said “there is no justification for this heinous crime.”

Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister and an ally of Mr. Fico, explain He was “deeply shocked by the heinous attack on my friend.”

The United States and the European Union also condemned. President Biden called the act a “horrible act of violence” and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called the attack “despicable.” social media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose approval ratings are declining despite Slovakia providing fighter jets to Ukraine at the start of the war, also condemned the attack.

Mr. Fico, who has served as prime minister longer than any other Slovak leader, has portrayed himself as a champion of ordinary people and an enemy of liberal elites. Like Hungary’s Orban, Fico opposes immigration from outside Europe and aid to Ukraine.

He began his three-decade political career on the left but gradually embraced right-wing political views over the years, as did his party Smer.

Mr Fico served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018. He was ousted in street protests in 2018 over the killing of a journalist investigating government corruption, but was re-elected last year after a campaign. He adopted a pro-Russian stance, promising social conservatism, nationalism and generous welfare programs.

His critics describe some of Fico’s plans as an attempt to return Slovakia to the authoritarian Soviet era and criticize the Slovak government’s efforts to overhaul state broadcasting to remove what they see as liberal bias and limit foreign funding of NGOs. s hard work. Foreign agents.

Report contributors: Andrew Higgins, Lauren Leatherby, Cassandra Winograd and Matthew M’Poke Biggar.



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