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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is fighting for life after assassination attempt

Daniel Hornak and Andrea Dudik, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was being treated for “life-threatening” injuries after being shot in what the nation’s Interior Ministry described as an assassination attempt.

Fico, 59, was attacked after a government meeting in the town of Handlova some 165 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of the capital Bratislava. The premier was transferred to a hospital in nearby Banska Bystrica, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

The alleged attacker was apprehended and taken into custody by police, outgoing President Zuzana Caputova told reporters in Bratislava.

Fico was walking in a crowd of people when shots were fired at him, newspaper Dennik N reported. Eyewitnesses heard four shots ring out as the prime minister fell to the ground, after which he was lifted by security guards, loaded into a car and driven away, the newspaper said.

The dominant political figure in the eastern European nation of 5.4 million since the fall of communism, Fico returned to power last year as a force of opposition to European Union institutions in Brussels. His Russia-friendly stance has put him at odds with partners, threatening to undermine E.U. unity in helping Ukraine.

Hateful rhetoric

Caputova, a political foe of Fico, condemned what she described as a “brutal and reckless attack” on the prime minister in a Facebook post.

“I am shocked,” she wrote. “I wish Robert Fico every strength to recover from the attack at this critical time.” Hateful rhetoric leads to “hateful actions,” she told reporters later.

 

It was the first shooting of a European leader since the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in March 2003. The pro-European reformer who took a stand against organized crime was killed after being gunned down in central Belgrade.

Slovakia’s parliament in Bratislava suspended its session as leaders across the political spectrum rebuked the assault, the first of its kind in the nation’s history.

A polarizing figure, Fico made a political comeback last year after resigning in disgrace in 2018 in response to mass demonstrations over the shooting death of an investigative reporter probing corruption in Slovakia.

Since his return, he’s drawn protests nationwide for rewriting the criminal code and scrapping a special prosecutor’s office. Last month, he lashed out at the country’s media for what he called hostility to the government as his cabinet proposed tighter controls over public television and radio.

In Handlova, Fico’s cabinet approved a plan to build a nuclear reactor, joining a push across the European Union’s east to expand atomic energy production.

Fico’s allies seized on the attack to accuse the opposition of inflaming division in the country.


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