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Slovak PM in critical condition after being shot

  • May 15, 2024
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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is in critical condition after being shot after a political event Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile.

The pro-Russian populist leader, 59, was shot in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital, where the leader met with supporters, according to information from TA3, a Slovak television channel. A suspect has been arrested, the country’s president said in a televised statement.

A post on Fico’s Facebook account said the leader “had been shot multiple times and is currently in a life-threatening condition.”

He was transported by helicopter to Banská Bystrica, 29 kilometers from Handlova, because it would take too long to arrive in Bratislava due to the need for an acute procedure.

“The next few hours will decide,” he said.

FILE – Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico arrives to a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, Thursday, February 1, 2024. Media reports say on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 that Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico was injured in a shooting and taken to hospital. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert, File)

Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, Fico’s political rival, said in a televised statement: “A physical attack on the prime minister is first and foremost an attack on a person, but it is also an attack on democracy.” Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we witness in society leads to hateful actions. Please let’s stop this. »

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, a Fico ally, called the act “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy.” If we express other political opinions with guns in the squares and not in the polling stations, we endanger everything we have built together over the last 31 years of Slovak sovereignty.

There were shock reactions across Europe, and some called it an assassination attempt on the NATO state leader, although no motive for the shooting was immediately apparent.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on social network X that he was “shocked and dismayed by the shooting.”

The shootings in Slovakia come three weeks before crucial European Parliament elections, in which the 27-nation bloc’s populist and far-right parties appear poised to make gains.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of the Slovak Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency reported.

Slovakia’s main opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, have canceled a planned protest against a controversial government plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give the government full control of public radio and television .

“We absolutely and strongly condemn the violence and shooting of Prime Minister Robert Fico today,” said Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. “At the same time, we call on all politicians to refrain from any expression or measure that could contribute to further increasing tension.”

President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and merciless attack” on the prime minister.

“I’m shocked,” Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength at this critical moment and a speedy recovery after this attack.”

Fico, prime minister for the third time, and his left-wing Smer, or Direction, party won Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, making a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian, anti-American message.

Critics feared that Fico’s Slovakia would abandon the country’s pro-Western path and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Thousands of people gathered repeatedly in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

Leaders across Europe quickly condemned the political violence.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she called a “vile attack”.

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” von der Leyen said in an article on X.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the incident “shocking”, adding “I hope the Prime Minister recovers soon. We cannot tolerate violence, it has no place in society.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia until 1992.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the social network X: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you at this very difficult time.”

Par KAREL JANICEK Associated Press

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Allwitch Joly