Slovakia PM Robert Fico in ‘very serious’ condition after being shot

Interior minister says suspect charged with attempted murder is ‘lone wolf’ who had joined anti-government protests.

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico is stable but his condition remains “very serious”, his deputy has said, after an assassination attempt that shocked the country and drew global condemnation.

Fico, 59, was shot five times in the central town of Handlova on Wednesday after he left a government meeting. He was in critical condition and underwent several hours of emergency surgery.

“During the night, doctors managed to stabilise the patient’s condition,” Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, the condition is still very serious as the injuries are complicated,” said Kalinak, who is also the defence minister.

Miriam Lapunikova, the director of the FD Roosevelt University Hospital in Banska Bystrica where Fico was being treated, said he “had multiple gunshot wounds, the consequences of which will affect his recovery”.

“At this point, his condition has stabilised, but it is truly very serious, and therefore he will remain in the intensive care unit,” she added.

Later on Thursday, President-elect Peter Pellegrini, who won election in April, said he had spoken with Fico.

“He is able to speak but only a few sentences and then he is really tired because he is on some medication,” he told reporters.

The alleged attacker, a 71-year-old writer and former security guard, has been charged with attempted murder, said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Bankska Bystrica.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told a news conference that the suspect had acted alone and had previously taken part in anti-government protests.

“This is a lone wolf who had radicalised himself … after the presidential election,” he said, referring to the vote won by Pellegrini.

“Slovak police are working with a single version of the attack and the suspect is charged with attempted murder with premeditation,” Sutaj Estok told reporters, adding that the attack was “politically motivated”.

President Zuzana Caputova called for a calming of political tensions and said she would invite all parliamentary party leaders for a joint meeting.

“Let’s step out of the vicious circle of hatred and mutual accusations,” she said on Thursday. “What happened yesterday was an individual act but the tense atmosphere of hatred has been our collective work.”

Pellegrini called on all parties to suspend or reduce campaigning before the European Parliament elections scheduled for June.

A person is detained after shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico,
A man is arrested after Slovak PM Robert Fico was shot multiple times, in Handlova, Slovakia [File: Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters]

Following the attack, Fico was rushed to a hospital in Handlova but was soon transferred by helicopter to the regional capital, Banska Bystrica, for urgent treatment.

Reacting to the incident, Russia said it considered the attack “absolutely unacceptable”.

“This is really a great tragedy,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

Fico’s European counterparts, including Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, condemned the shooting and wished him a complete recovery.

The country of 5.4 million has seen polarised political debate in recent years, including last year’s presidential election that helped Fico tighten his grip on power.

Since returning as prime minister last October, his government has scaled back support for Ukraine while opening up dialogue with Russia, looked to lessen punishments for corruption, and is revamping the RTVS public broadcaster despite a call to protect media freedoms.

Fico is Slovakia’s longest-serving political leader and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies