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Robert Fico: Slovakia PM in life-threatening condition after being shot multiple times | World News

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Slovakia’s prime minister is in a life-threatening condition after being shot multiple times in a suspected assassination attempt.

Robert Fico has been airlifted to hospital and a suspect, reported to be 71 years old, was detained at the scene.

The shooting happened in the town of Handlova, about 85 miles (136km) from the capital Bratislava, after a meeting at a cultural centre.

Follow live: Slovak prime minister in ‘life-threatening condition’

Slovakia‘s interior ministry confirmed it was an assassination attempt and local TV said he was hit in the stomach.

Mr Fico, 59, was conscious when he was flown to hospital, a spokesperson said.

He was taken to a local hospital and then flown to a larger facility in Banska Bystrica.

“The next few hours will decide,” said a post on Mr Fico’s Facebook page.

Pic: Reuters
Security officers move Slovak PM Robert Fico in a car after a shooting incident, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
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Security rushed Mr Fico into a car after the incident. Pic: Reuters

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Slovakian PM bundled into car after being shot

Pic: Reuters
A person is detained after a shooting incident of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
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The man detained is said to be 71 years old. Pic: Reuters


Two people who saw the attack told local news outlet Diary N about the moment it happened.

“I was just going to shake his hand,” said one.

“When the shots rang out, I almost became deaf,” said the other, who did not want to give her name.

She said there were three or four shots and that Mr Fico fell to the floor with blood on his chest and head.

Other witnesses said the suspect had called out to the prime minister using a friendly nickname before the attack.

‘A polarising political bruiser’

By Darren McCaffrey, political correspondent

Robert Fico has been in Slovak politics for decades, even before the country of Slovakia existed.

A towering figure, he is a political bruiser who has been polarising at home and throughout Europe.

His election last year seemed almost unimaginable until recently, after Fico was forced to resign following the murder of a famous journalist and allegations of corruption.

It appeared his political career was over.

However, he bounced back on a campaign to end military support for Ukraine.

He is also resistant to sanctions on Russia, a conservative on social issues and he attacks the EU project.

This populist approach has a large constituency with mainly rural, older, conservative voters helping him to a third term.

But not with everyone, his party did receive the largest number of votes, though it only amounted to 23%.

Slovakia, like many of its neighbours, is deeply divided with younger, more metropolitan voters angry with the nationalistic approach to politics.

They tend to be more pro-EU, in favour of Ukrainian support and liberal.

There is also widespread concern about an authoritarian approach to politics, curbing of media freedoms and opposition parties.

The result is a polarised country with a polarising prime minister who has never shown any sign of wanting reconciliation.

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Who is Robert Fico?

Pic: AP
Rescue workers wheel Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and injured, to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Slovakia...s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile. (Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP)
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Pic: AP


Pic: AP
Rescue workers take Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and injured, to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Slovakia...s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile. (Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP)
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The prime minister was taken to a hospital in the town of Banska. Pic: AP

Robert Fico on the world stage

Robert Fico’s election victory last autumn meant NATO had another leader – alongside Hungary’s Victor Orban – who is sympathetic to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

He has previously opposed EU sanctions on Russia – and has been against Ukraine joining the defence treaty.

He believes the US and other nations should use their influence to force Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal.

Mr Fico also repeated Mr Putin’s unsupported claim that the Ukrainian government runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians in the country need protection.

Critics have also voiced increasing fears Mr Fico would abandon Slovakia’s pro-Western course.

To read more, click here.

Leaders from across Europe have been quick to condemn the shooting.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called it a “vile attack”, while Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said it was “shocking”.

“News of the cowardly assassination attempt on Slovakian Prime Minister Fico shocks me deeply,” said German leader Olaf Scholz.

“Violence must have no place in European politics.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk posted on X: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

Mr Fico is a three-time premier in Slovakia and a stalwart of the country’s political scene.

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However, he is a divisive figure, with many critical of his more sympathetic stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and views on LGBTQ rights.

He won elections in September after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

President Putin issued a statement several hours after Mr Fico’s shooting, calling it a “monstrous” crime with “no justification”.

In a Telegram post, he wished him “a speedy and full recovery”, adding: “I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man.

“I very much hope that these qualities will help him to survive this difficult situation.”

US President Joe Biden said his thoughts were “with his (Fico’s) 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,” said a statement.

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