Slovak Prime Minister Out of Danger After Assassination Attempt: What We Know so Far - Latest Global News

Slovak Prime Minister Out of Danger After Assassination Attempt: What We Know so Far

The Slovak Prime Minister was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt on Wednesday.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is no longer in life-threatening condition after a “politically motivated” assassination attempt on Wednesday in which he was shot five times, a government minister said.

The shooter, believed to be a 71-year-old writer, is in custody. No one was injured in the attack.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened in Slovakia and when?

  • Fico was injured Wednesday in a shooting that the government ruled an assassination attempt. The prime minister was shot five times as he left a government meeting and greeted people in the town of Handlova.
  • After the violent incident, the 59-year-old leader was taken by helicopter to a hospital near the town of Banska Bystrica due to the need for “acute intervention.”
  • A video shared on social media showed Fico approaching a small group of people behind a waist-high metal barrier in a public square. Suddenly, a man appeared and fired a pistol at close range, resulting in five audible shots.
  • After the first shot, Fico doubled over and fell backwards onto a bench, local media reported, adding that he was shot in the stomach and a second shot hit a joint.
  • Security officers rushed over and took him to a black Audi parked a few meters away. He was then flown to Banska Bystrica, where he underwent surgery at a medical facility.
  • At the scene of the shooting, security officers took a suspect to the ground. Officials said preliminary evidence suggested political motives. Fico was reportedly conscious when he was transported to the hospital. The suspect was seen sitting on the ground wearing a light blue shirt with his hands tied behind his back.
  • Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba said late Wednesday that Fico’s hospital operations were “going well,” adding: “I think in the end he will survive.”

Where in Slovakia did the attack occur?

  • According to local television news channel TA3, the shooting occurred in the town of Handlova, about 190 km (118 miles) northeast of the Slovak capital Bratislava.
  • He was flown to a hospital in Banska Bystrica, a town in central Slovakia 62 km (39 miles) east of Handlova.

Who was behind the attack?

  • According to an Associated Press report citing local media, the shooter was a former mall security guard, author of three books of poetry and a member of the Slovak Writers’ Union.
  • The news agency quoted his son as saying that his father was a legal holder of a firearms license.
  • “I have absolutely no idea what my father was up to, what he planned, what happened,” the son was quoted as saying.
  • According to local media reports, the suspect is 71 years old.

Who is Robert Fico?

  • Fico, born in 1964 in what was then Czechoslovakia, won a third term as Slovakia’s prime minister in October.
  • He has committed to ending Slovak military aid to Ukraine and has vowed to hinder Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, a stance that would undo Slovakia’s longstanding support for Ukraine.
  • Before the election, Fico openly expressed his pro-Kremlin stance and attributed Russia’s mobilization to “Ukrainian Nazis and fascists.” In doing so, he fell back on the narrative that Russian President Vladimir Putin used to justify the war.
  • He previously served as Prime Minister of Slovakia for more than a decade, from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018.
  • In 2018, he was forced to resign due to controversy following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. Kuciak investigated corruption, including against people directly linked to Fico and his political party Direction – Social Democracy (SMER).
  • In his recent election campaign, he promised a “sovereign” foreign policy and actively campaigned against LGBTQ rights.
  • Fico also worked as a government agent for several years in the 1990s, representing the Slovak Republic before the European Court of Human Rights and the European Human Rights Commission.

What is the context?

  • Slovak Defense and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak said this was the result of escalating hate speech and division in the country’s political atmosphere.
  • Theresa Fallon, founder and director of the Center for Russian, European and Asian Studies, said the shooting underscores the political polarization that exists in Slovakia after Fico’s election last year.
  • “We see this all over Europe too; A lot of right-wing parties are gaining strength,” Fallon told Al Jazeera.
  • The attack comes ahead of key European Parliament elections in which populist parties are expected to make gains. The attack risks further inflaming political divisions across Europe.
  • Fallon, of the Center for Russian, European and Asian Studies, also pointed out that Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders had previously reached an agreement to form what is believed to be the Netherlands’ most right-wing government in decades. She also pointed to the popularity of the far-right Alternative for Germany party in Germany, which now has 20 percent of the vote.
  • “I think we are seeing this deep political polarization across Europe,” she added.

What were the reactions?

World leaders quickly condemned the attack.

  • President Joe Biden said it was a “horrible act of violence,” adding that he and first lady Jill Biden are “praying for a speedy recovery and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia.”
  • “There is no justification for this monstrous crime. I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-willed man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him get through this difficult situation,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she “condemns the vile attack… such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good.”
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said on social media he was “shocked” by the attack.
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban condemned the “despicable” attack. “I was deeply shocked by the vile attack on my friend, Prime Minister Robert Fico. We pray for his health and speedy recovery! God bless him and his country!” Orban said.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also condemned the attack.
  • “We strongly condemn this act of violence against the head of government of our neighboring partner state. Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, in any form or in any area,” he said.

For more reaction, follow our coverage here.

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