• Saturday, May 18, 2024

EUROPE

Slovakia PM Robert Fico shot multiple times in assassination attempt

The incident took place in the central Slovak town of Handlova where several firing shots were heard by a local reporter and security guards were seen rushing to lift the premier off the ground into a car.

This image taken from video footage obtained by AFPTV shows security personnel carrying Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico (C) towards a vehicle after he was shot in Handlova on May 15, 2024. (Photo by -/RTVS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: India Weekly

SLOVAKIA’S prime minister Robert Fico was battling life-threatening wounds Wednesday (15) after officials said he was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt condemned by European leaders.

The Dennik N daily said its reporter in the central town of Handlova heard several shots fired and then saw security guards rushing to lift the premier off the ground and into a car.

Outgoing Slovak president Zuzana Caputova told reporters that “police have detained the attacker”.

“I am shocked, we are all shocked by the terrible and heinous attack,” she added.

Slovak television showed footage of a middle-aged man in jeans being handcuffed on the ground.

Slovak prime minister Robert Fico
Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico walks during the European Council summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels, on April 18, 2024. (Photo by KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Separate images from public television RTVS showed a person on a stretcher being taken out of a helicopter and wheeled into a hospital.

“Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt” on Fico, the government said in a post on social media.

“He is currently being transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica in a life-threatening condition, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute intervention,” the government’s statement added.

Fico was shot multiple times, said a post on his official Facebook page.

Handlova local hospital director Marta Eckhardtova said “Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic”.

She was unable to describe his injuries.

Fico, whose Smer-SD party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and a political veteran accused of swaying his country’s foreign policy in favour of the Kremlin.

– Attack condemned –

Slovak president-elect and Fico ally Peter Pellegrini said he learned of the shooting “with horror”.

“An assassination attempt on one of the highest constitutional officials is an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy,” he added on X, formerly Twitter.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the “appalling” shooting and wished Fico a speedy recovery.

“We strongly condemn this act of violence… Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country,” he said in a message on social media.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on X he was “shocked to hear this awful news”.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for a “thorough investigation” and wished Fico “a full recovery”.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the news of the attack “shocking”.

“I hope the prime minister will get well as soon as possible. We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society,” he said on X.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: “Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

– Ukraine remarks –

As well as his current stint as premier, Fico also headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

Since he assumed office last October, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine.

He has notably questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for a compromise with Russia, which invaded in 2022.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine. He pledged during the electoral campaign not to provide Kyiv with “a single bullet”.

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public television and radio.

At a press conference following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico’s party lashed out against his critics.

“You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred,” Blaha said.

(AFP)

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