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Slovakia’s PM Robert Fico wounded in shooting

16-05-2024

BRATISLAVA: Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, has been injured in a shooting and taken to hospital, the country’s deputy speaker confirmed during a session of parliament.

The incident occurred after a Slovakian government meeting at a location outside Bratislava, the news agency TASR reported on Wednesday.

Reports on the Slovakian TV channel TA3 said Fico, 59, was struck in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, about 90 miles (150km) north-east of the capital.

A suspect had been detained, they added. Police sealed off the scene.

Emergency services in Slovakia confirmed on social media that a helicopter had been dispatched to Handlova after the shooting of a 59-year-old man. It did not identify the victim.

The country’s deputy speaker of parliament, Lubos Blaha, confirmed the incident during a session of parliament and adjourned it until further notice, TASR said.

The leader had been meeting a small crowd of supporters when the shooting occurred, the news outlet Aktuality reported.

A witness told Reuters he heard several shots and that he saw a man being detained by police.

Denník N reported that one of its reporters heard several shots and then saw the prime minister being lifted from the ground by security guards and put into a car. Although they did not see the incident itself.

Zuzana Caputova, Slovakia’s president, condemned the “brutal” attack on the prime minister. “I’m shocked,” said Caputova. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

The attack was also condemned by the opposition party Progressive Slovakia. “I am shocked and appalled by the shooting of Prime Minister Robert Fico in Handlova,” said Michal Simecka on social media. “We unequivocally and strongly condemn any violence,” he added.

Fico, a veteran politician, returned to power in Slovakia after elections last year, fueled in part by promises to halt military aid to Ukraine, criticisms of sanctions targeting Russia and campaigns against LGBTQ+ rights.

As news of the shooting broke on Wednesday, among the first to comment was Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister. Fiala described the news of the shooting as “shocking” on social media. “We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society,” Fiala added.

The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, weighed in soon after. “I strongly condemn the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico,” von der Leyen wrote on social media.

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” she added. “My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family.”

Robert Fico, the nationalist politician who has been sworn in as prime minister and head of a coalition government in Slovakia, is a familiar figure. The burly and brash political veteran has enjoyed three previous stints as prime minister and so is well known to voters and observers.

The 59-year-old is also typical of the new wave of nationalist-populist politicians who have emerged over the last decade, riding the wave of resentment generated among tens of millions of Europeans by the diverse disappointments of the third decade of the 21st century. His fall from power amid corruption allegations and after mass protests prompted by the 2018 killing of a young investigative journalist was supposed to be definitive. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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