Slovakia PM Fico’s life in danger after being shot multiple times
BRATISLAVA: (Web Desk) Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, was in a life-threatening condition in hospital Wednesday after he suffered multiple bullet wounds in a murder attempt.

 The shooting took place after an off-site government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova. The suspected gunman was among a small crowd of people waiting to greet the prime minister on the street outside the cultural center, where the meeting took place, CNN quoted local media as saying.

Footage from the scene shows the injured prime minister being bundled into a vehicle by several of his staff, with the car speeding away from the scene as soon as he is inside.

Fico was first transported to a local hospital and then taken by helicopter to a major trauma center in Banska Bystrica, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) away.

A statement posted on Fico’s official Facebook page and his party’s website called the attack “an asassination attempt.”

“He was shot multiple times and is currently in a life-threatening condition. The next few hours will be decisive,” according to the statement.

No one else was injured in the attack, according to Slovak Labor Minister Erik Tomáš.

The official statement said the PM was taken to Banska Bystrica instead of the capital city of Bratislava because “an acute intervention” was necessary. Handlova is about two hours’ drive from the capital Bratislava.

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová said the suspected gunman was detained by the police. She said law enforcement agencies will release more information when they can and asked the public not to spread unconfirmed rumors.

A video from the scene showed a man on the floor being detained by several officials.

Čaputová condemned what she called a “brutal and reckless” attack on the 59-year-old politician. “I’m shocked. I wish Roberto Fico all the strength in this critical moment to recover from the attack,” Čaputová wrote on Facebook. Speaking at a news conference later in the afternoon, she said the attack was “an attack on democracy as well.”

In what was a stunning comeback for the controversial politician, Fico won a third term as Slovakian prime minister last October after running a campaign that criticized western support for Ukraine. Fico had pledged an immediate end to Slovak military support for Ukraine and promised to block Ukraine’s NATO ambitions in what would upend Slovakia’s staunch backing for Ukraine.

Ahead of the election, Fico made no secret of his sympathies towards the Kremlin and blamed “Ukrainian Nazis and fascists” for provoking Vladimir Putin into launching the invasion, repeating the false narrative Russia’s president has used to justify his invasion.

While in opposition, Fico became a close ally of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, especially when it came to criticism of the European Union.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico attends a European Council summit in Brussels, on April 18, 2024.

Fico previously served as Slovakia’s prime minister for more than a decade, first between 2006 and 2010 and then again from 2012 to 2018. He was forced to resign in March 2018 after weeks of mass protests over the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová. Kuciak reported on corruption among the country’s elite, including people directly connected to Fico and his party SMER.

European leaders immediately condemned the attack. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, tweeted: “I strongly condemn the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico. Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico, his family.”

And Hungarian Prime Minister Orban added: “I was deeply shocked by the heinous attack against my friend, Prime Minister Robert Fico. We pray for his health and quick recovery! God bless him and his country!”