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Who is Slovak Prime Minister Roberto Fico?

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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.

The country gained its independence during the so-called Velvet Revolution, a series of popular non-violent protests against the Communists in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Fico, a former member of the Communist Party during its years in power, founded the Smail Party in the late 1990s and served as prime minister in 2006 for the first of three terms. Slovakia is a landlocked country with a population of approximately 5 million.

The Smer party was originally on the political left but has increasingly embraced right-wing views on immigration and cultural issues, and has been governing as part of a coalition government. In recent years, international attention to Fico’s leadership has focused on his relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, Slovakia’s southern neighbor.

The murders of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in July 2018 for exposing government corruption sparked massive demonstrations that led to Fico’s death in 2018 He resigned as prime minister in July that year. 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.

He returned to power in an election last fall, forming a coalition government after winning about 23% of the vote and opposing sanctions imposed on Russia after it began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He told voters that the country’s ammunition should be sent to Ukraine.

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.

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.

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