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Assassination attempt: Slovakian head of government in mortal danger after shots fired

Assassination attempt: Slovakian head of government in mortal danger after shots fired

Prime Minister Fico wants to speak to citizens after a meeting when shots are fired. The Interior Minister now says that the attack had a political background.

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and critically injured in an assassination attempt. The 59-year-old left-wing nationalist politician was flown by helicopter to a hospital after the bloody act in the town of Handlova on Wednesday.

Police said the attacker had been arrested. According to eyewitnesses, after a cabinet meeting, he shot Fico several times as he tried to greet supporters at the door. According to the government’s assessment, the man had a political motive. Politicians around the world reacted with dismay, including UN Secretary-General António Gutterres, US President Joe Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Just a few days ago, Fico accused the liberal opposition of fomenting a climate of hostility against his government. Given the heated atmosphere, it cannot be ruled out that an act of violence could occur at some point.

One of the most popular politicians in the country

The founder and head of the left-wing party Smer-SSD, which has recently become increasingly nationalistic, has been one of the most popular politicians in Slovakia for almost 30 years. But at the same time he polarizes like no other. Opponents call him “pro-Russian” and accuse him of wanting to lead Slovakia on a similar course to Viktor Orban’s Hungary.

In the evening, Fico’s life was still in danger, as Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told journalists at the clinic in Banska Bystrica. According to media reports, Fico regained consciousness after an operation lasting several hours. However, neither the television station TA3 nor the newspaper “Dennik” provided any further information about Fico’s health in their online edition. There has been no new statement or statement from the government since then.

According to information from the TV station TA3, the perpetrator is Juraj C., a former employee of a private security service. This was not initially officially confirmed. Despite an information embargo, the broadcaster obtained a video recording from the police station. In it, the dazed-looking suspected attacker says: “I don’t agree with government policy.” As a concrete example, he mentioned in an indistinct voice the government’s planned dissolution of the public radio and television RTVS, against which thousands of people have been demonstrating for weeks.

Increased police protection for politicians

Interior Minister Sutaj Estok announced increased police protection for politicians and journalists. At the same time, he called on the media, politicians from all camps and the public to stop “incitement against political opponents on social media”.

The liberal opposition leader Michal Simecka canceled all political actions in the evening for an indefinite period. This also applies to a demonstration against the government planned for Wednesday evening.

Eyewitnesses reported on television that five shots were fired in front of the cultural center in Handlova when Fico went outside to shake hands. A shot hit him in the chest. The local television RTV Prievidza published a video of the crime: You can see a man pushing himself against the fence and shooting at the Prime Minister from close range.

President speaks of an attack on democracy

President Zuzana Caputova said the attack was also an attack on democracy. “Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we have witnessed in society is leading to hateful actions. Please, let’s stop this.”

Despite her great popularity, the liberal president did not apply for a second term in office because, in her own words, she no longer had the strength after years of political crises and several changes of government. The climate between the government and the opposition is considered poisonous.

Top politicians are dismayed

US President Joe Biden spoke of a “terrible act of violence”. “Our thoughts are with his family and the Slovak people,” he said. Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) called the assassination attempt on Fico “unbearable.” “I wish him that he recovers well from this cowardly attack,” said Scholz.

Fico is controversial in Europe because of his often exaggerated formulations on the EU’s Ukraine and Russia policy. During the election campaign for the parliamentary election in autumn 2023, which he won, he made people sit up and take notice with the announcement that he no longer wanted to supply “cartridges” of weapons to Ukraine. In fact, since Fico’s return to government in October, Slovakia has not supported all EU sanctions against Russia and has also not agreed to all EU aid to Ukraine – including the use of frozen Russian funds for Ukraine and support for Ukraine’s accession to the EU but to NATO.

Contrary to misleading media reports, Fico does not fundamentally reject the sanctions against Russia. However, he criticizes the fact that some of them are doing more harm to Slovakia, which is dependent on Russian gas, oil and uranium, than to Russia itself. Instead, he is calling for sanctions that would hit Russia more severely.

Source: Stern

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