Slovak prime minister in 'stable' condition after being shot five times in attempted assassination

 May 16, 2024

On Wednesday, an assassination attempt was made against Slovakia's leftist-populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was rushed to a hospital after being shot five times, NBC News reported.

He was initially said to be "fighting for his life" in an "extremely serious" condition after suffering grievous wounds in the "life-threatening situation" that occurred while he was greeting members of the public following a meeting in the city of Handlova.

Expected to survive following assassination attempt

CBS News reported on Thursday that PM Fico underwent emergency surgery in the nearby city of Banska Bystrica and is expected to survive as his condition was upgraded to "stable but still very serious."

He had been transported to Banska Bystrica -- first by car and then by helicopter -- instead of the capital city of Bratislava due to the urgency of his injuries.

Fico, who is serving in his third non-consecutive term as prime minister, is a controversial figure in Slovakia and the broader region who was re-elected last year on an anti-America, pro-Russia platform.

In addition to prior allegations of corruption that had previously forced him out of office, he had stirred some resentment and worries with his alignment with regional autocratic leaders, anti-Western policies, and plans to reform and take over public radio and TV, per NBC News.

Nevertheless, both CBS and NBC noted an outpouring of statements of condemnation of the attack from his political rivals and leaders on the left and right across Europe.

Slovak president "shocked" by violent attack on political opponent

In a televised statement, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, an outgoing rival of PM Fico who will soon be replaced by an ally of the prime minister, said she was "shocked" by the "terrible and vile attack" against her political opponent.

"The shooting of the Prime Minister is first and foremost an attack on a human being -- but it’s also an attack on democracy," she said. "Violence is absolutely unacceptable. Hate speech and rhetoric full of hate, which we witness across society, leads to hateful acts. Please, let us stop this."

"The police have arrested the perpetrator and will provide further information when possible," Caputova added. "Until then, let us not pass quick judgments, please. I think that the most important thing we should all focus on at this moment is Robert Fico's fast recovery."

Suspect in custody, charged with attempted murder

The Associated Press reported that the would-be assassin was immediately apprehended at the scene of the shooting and has since been charged with attempted premeditated murder.

Though his name has not been publicly released, he was described as a 71-year-old retiree who acted as a "lone wolf" and was politically motivated to attack the prime minister over opposition to his policies.

That information was shared with the public by Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok, who seemed to blame the sharp political tensions in the small European nation on the Slovak media, as he told reporters, "I can confirm to you that the reason it was a politically motivated, attempted premeditated murder is as the suspect himself said: the media information that he had at his disposal. I think each of you can reflect on the way you presented it."

The attempted assassination has sent shockwaves through Slovakia as it nears European elections in early June, and the country's leaders are now urging calmness and unity and a scaling back of campaigning and fiery rhetoric over the coming weeks.

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