Slovakia's PM Robert Fico injured in shooting, in life-threatening condition

A message posted to Fico’s Facebook account said that the leader “has been shot multiple times and is currently in life-threatening condition”; a suspect has been detained

Updated - May 15, 2024 11:14 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2024 07:04 pm IST - Prague

A person is detained after the shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15, 2024.

A person is detained after the shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico, after a Slovak government meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting after a political event May 15 afternoon, according to his Facebook profile.

The populist, pro-Russian leader, 59, was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 150 km northeast of the capital where the leader was meeting with supporters, according to reports on TA3, a Slovak TV station. A suspect has been detained, the country’s president said in a televised statement.

A message posted to Fico’s Facebook account said that the leader “has been shot multiple times and is currently in life-threatening condition.” It said he was being transported by helicopter to the Banská Bystrica, 29 km away from Handlova because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute procedure.

“The next few hours will decide,” it said.

Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, a political rival of Mr. Fico, said in a televised statement: “A physical attack on the Prime Minister is, first of all, an attack on a person, but it is also an attack on democracy. Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we’ve been witnessing in society leads to hateful actions. Please, let’s stop it.” President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called the assassination “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy. If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardizing everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovak sovereignty.” There were reactions of shock from across Europe, and some were calling it an attempted assassination of the leader in the NATO state, although no motive for the shooting was immediately apparent.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg posted on X that he was “shocked and appalled by the shooting”. The shooting in Slovakia comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and hard-right parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.

Deputy Speaker of parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of Slovakia’s Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

Slovakia’s major opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, cancelled a planned protest against a controversial government plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give the government full control of public radio and television.

“We absolutely and strongly condemn violence and today’s shooting of Premier Robert Fico,” said Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. “At the same time we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps which could contribute to further increasing the tension.” President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier.

“I’m shocked,” Ms. Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.” Mr. Fico, a third-time premier, and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia’s Sept. 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

Critics worried Slovakia under Mr. Fico would abandon the country’s pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Mr. Fico’s policies.

Condemnations of political violence quickly came from leaders across Europe.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she described as a “vile attack.” “Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” von der Leyen said in a post on X.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the incident “shocking,” adding “I wish the premier to get well soon. We cannot tolerate violence, there’s no place for it in society.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia till 1992.

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

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.