Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico Shot, in Critical Condition

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico, was shot in the town of Handlova, where a government meeting was taking place, Slovak media reports. He was transported to the hospital and he is in a “very serious condition” and is still undergoing surgery, the Slovak defense minister announced on Wednesday evening, five hours after the assassination attempt.

Slovak site Aktuality writes that Robert Fico was shot three times – twice in the arm and once in the abdomen. However, Fico was conscious when he was taken to hospital immediately after the incident, according to a spokesman quoted by Reuters.

Robert Kalinak, Slovakia’s defense minister, held a press conference outside the hospital in Banska Bystrica where Fico is being operated on. He said doctors were fighting to save the prime minister’s life as he suffered “serious multiple trauma”. “The situation is very bad,” Kalinak said.

What happened today is a stigma that will follow us for many years to come. Today is the saddest moment in Slovakia’s 31-year history, an attack against the prime minister is an attack against democracy, an attack on the state itself,” the DefMin added.

The man who shot Robert Fico is a 71-year-old former security guard and approached the Slovak prime minister after he left the House of Culture in Handlova. A Slovak reporter said the man called Fico “Robo”, a Slovak diminutive for the name “Robert”, before shooting him several times.

“Robo, come here!”  Robert Fico’s attacker allegedly shouted before firing four bullets at him.

Later on, the shooter had a first stance: “I don’t agree with the government’s policy. Why is the press liquidated, why is RTVS (no. public television) under attack? Why was Mazak (the former head of the Judicial Council of Slovakia) fired?” the man says, according to footage broadcast by Slovak television.

US President Joe Biden, as well as many world leaders, condemned the attack.

“I am alarmed to hear reports of an attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. Jill and I are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia. We condemn this horrific act of violence. Our embassy is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist,” says a Biden’s statement released by the White House.

Slovakia’s president-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, reacted to the assassination attempt, saying it was “a threat to everything that has graced Slovak democracy so far.”

“An assassination attempt against one of the highest-ranking constitutional officials is an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy. If we express our different political views with firearms in the markets and not at the ballot box, we jeopardize everything we have built together during the 31 years of Slovak sovereignty,” Pellegrini said on Twitter.

The prime minister of the Hungarian government, Viktor Orban, condemned the attack against Robert Fico. A similar message was sent by the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Volodymyr Zelenski, Pedro Sanchez and Rishi Sunak condemned the assassination attempt against Prime Minister Fico.

Fico, a political veteran, also controversial

According to foreign media, a veteran of Slovak politics, Robert Fico has repeatedly managed to take over the leadership of the government thanks to an ability to navigate between mainstream, pro-EU positions and fiercely nationalist and anti-Western rhetoric. In 2023, he returned to power five years after massive protests sparked by the assassination of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak, who was investigating corruption in the ruling party, appeared to have ended his career.

The armed attack that wounded Robert Fico on Wednesday marks the worst crisis in the long political career of the Slovak prime minister, who has faced massive public protests, suspicions and criticism from Brussels and more.
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