Slovakia’s PM Fico undergoes new operation amid hopes for his recovery

Robert Fico remains in serious condition, officials say, after being shot in attack that sent shockwaves across Europe.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated at a hospital in Banska Bystrica after he was shot earlier this week [File: Ferenc Isza/AFP]

Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent another operation that has increased hopes for his recovery but remains in serious condition, the country’s deputy prime minister has said.

The 59-year-old was shot on Wednesday while speaking to members of the public after a meeting in the central town of Handlova, in an attack that sent shockwaves across Europe and around the world.

Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said on Friday that Fico had undergone another operation that lasted nearly two hours.

“It will take several more days for us to know definitively which way it is going,” Kalinak told reporters outside the hospital in the city of Banska Bystrica where the prime minister is being treated. “I think the surgery today … will allow us to move closer to a positive prognosis.”

Kalinak also said any decision to transfer Fico back to the capital Bratislava would only be made when there had been further improvement in his condition.

“I am in a better mood because I see there is progress,” the deputy prime minister said. “It is still very serious but for me, hopeful.”

Miriam Lapunikova, director of the hospital, said Fico was conscious and stable in the intensive care unit after the operation, which removed dead tissue from his wounds.

Man charged in attack

Slovak police have charged a man with attempted murder. Local news outlets have reported that he is a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry.

However, there has been no official confirmation of his identity.

Police also conducted an hours-long search of the suspect’s home in the central town of Levice with him present, according to TV Makriza.

“This is a lone wolf whose actions were accelerated after the presidential election since he was dissatisfied with its outcome,” Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told reporters.

The shooting is the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader for more than 20 years, and has drawn international condemnation.

Political analysts and lawmakers said it has exposed an increasingly febrile and polarised political climate both in Slovakia and across Europe.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a political ally of Fico, told public radio on Friday that even if the Slovak leader stages a full recovery, he will not be able to work for months – and this at a critical time for the continent, which is holding European Parliament elections in early June.

“We are facing an election that will decide not just about members of European Parliament but along with the US election can determine the course of war and peace in Europe,” Orban said.

Officials have also drawn a link to the political situation in the country, with its political scene marred by disinformation and attacks on social media during recent election campaigns.

Slovakia’s president-elect, Peter Pellegrini, who won an election in April, on Wednesday urged the political parties to suspend or reduce campaigning before the EU vote.

The biggest opposition party, centrist Progressive Slovakia, and others announced that they had done so.

Fico, a four-time prime minister and political veteran, returned to office in October. Since then, he has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine after he questioned the country’s sovereignty.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine, which was invaded by Russia in 2022.

Source: News Agencies