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Slovaks probe possible broader plot behind premier's shooting

Daniel Hornak and Peter Laca, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

The Slovak police said they’re investigating the possible involvement of more people than just a “lone-wolf” shooter in the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Government officials initially said that a single perpetrator with a political motive was responsible for the May 15 attack. On Sunday, authorities said that cooperation with domestic and foreign intelligence services had led to a broadening of the probe, to include a version in which a group — which wasn’t identified — may have been linked to the crime.

Fico sustained life-threatening injuries when a 71-year-old suspect fired five shots from close range at the prime minister, who had approached a crowd of people after a government meeting in the town of Handlova, northeast of the capital Bratislava.

The first such attack on a European leader in more than 20 years has sent shockwaves in one of the continent’s most polarized countries. It’s highlighted the inflammatory politics that have become prevalent in Slovakia since the pandemic and further turbocharged by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A potential broader assassination plot is supported by the fact that the assailant’s social media communications were erased by another person about two hours after the shooting, Interior Minister Matus Sutaj-Estok told reporters on Sunday.

Based on that development, “we added a version that it wasn’t only a lone-wolf attacker, but that the crime may have been conducted by a certain group of people,” he said, declining to give more details due to the sensitive nature of the case.

 

Fico’s life is no longer in immediate danger, but his condition remains “very serious” and his recovery will take a long time, Defense Minister Robert Kalinak said on Sunday.

“The worst we feared has, for the moment, passed,” Kalinak said at a televised briefing. Fico, 59, continues to be treated at a hospital in Banska Bystrica.

Despite numerous calls for reconciliation and a suspension of political campaigning, the political situation remains tense in the Eastern European nation of 5.4 million people.

In a video statement on Sunday, President-elect Peter Pellegrini announced that a roundtable with representatives of all parliamentary parties will likely not take place on Tuesday as planned. Pellegrini had attempted to organize the meeting with outgoing President Zuzana Caputova to help calm the situation.

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