Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in 'life-threatening' condition after being shot multiple times

A suspect has been detained as European leaders condemn the shooting weeks before crucial EU elections.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico in 'life-threatening' condition after being shot multiple times
Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP
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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is in "life-threatening condition" after being shot multiple times in what has been described as an "assassination attempt" on his official social media page. The shooting occurred in the town of Handlova, where Fico was hit in the abdomen, according to local media reports.

Police have sealed off the scene, and a suspect has been detained in connection with the incident, as reported by the Dennik N news outlet and TA3, a Slovakian TV station. Due to the severity of his injuries and the need for an acute procedure, Fico is being transported by helicopter to a hospital in Banska Bystrica, 65km (40 miles) away from Handlova, as reaching Bratislava would take too long. The statement on Fico's social media account emphasized that "the next few hours will decide" his fate.

President Zuzana Caputova strongly condemned the "brutal and ruthless" attack on the prime minister, expressing her shock and wishing Fico "a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery." President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, described the assassination attempt as "an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy," warning that expressing political opinions with violence instead of through democratic processes jeopardizes the progress made since Slovakia gained sovereignty 31 years ago, Al Jazeera reported

The shooting has sent shockwaves through the European political landscape, occurring just three weeks before the crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and right-wing parties are expected to make significant gains. European leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, have expressed their shock at the incident.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also condemned the assault, stating that "such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good." She extended her thoughts to Prime Minister Fico and his family during this difficult time.

Fico has been a prominent figure in the country's politics for three decades. Fico's rise to power began after the fall of Communist rule in 1989, and he has led the SMER-Social Democracy party since 1999, capitalizing on dissatisfaction with liberal economic reforms to secure his first election victory in 2006, Reuters reported.

The 59-year-old leader, who took power for the fourth time last October, has steered Slovakia towards a more nationalistic stance, prioritizing the interests of Slovakians over the demands of Brussels bureaucrats. Fico initiated reforms in criminal law, raising concerns among progressives about the country's rightward turn. 

Throughout his career, Fico has skillfully navigated between pro-European mainstream and nationalistic anti-Brussels and anti-American positions, demonstrating a willingness to adapt his stance based on public opinion and changing political realities. Fico embraced positions unpopular with the global left, including strident criticism of Western allies, opposition to sanctions on Russia, and threats to veto any future NATO membership invitation for Ukraine.

Under his coalition, Slovakia halted official weapons shipments to Ukraine, and Fico has spoken about alleged western influence in the war, which he claims has only led to Slavic nations killing each other. Inspired by Hungary's Viktor Orban, Fico has claimed to prioritize Slovak interests and seeks an end to the war in Ukraine.

Fico has previously expressed that he doesn't support strengthening the World Health Organization. 

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