HomeTop StoriesSlovak Prime Minister fights for his life after assassination attempt

Slovak Prime Minister fights for his life after assassination attempt

(Bloomberg) – Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was treated for “life-threatening” injuries after being shot in what the Home Office described as an assassination attempt.

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Fico, 59, was attacked after a government meeting in the town of Handlova, about 165 kilometers northeast of the capital Bratislava. The prime minister was transferred to a hospital in nearby Banska Bystrica, the government said in a statement on Wednesday.

The alleged attacker was caught by police and taken into custody, outgoing President Zuzana Caputova told reporters in Bratislava.

Fico was walking among a crowd of people when he was shot at, daily Dennik N reported. Eyewitnesses heard four shots ring out as the prime minister fell to the ground, after which he was lifted by guards, loaded into a car and driven away, the newspaper said.

Fico, the dominant political figure in the Eastern European country of 5.4 million since the fall of communism, returned to power last year as a force of resistance against European Union institutions in Brussels. His Russia-friendly stance has put him at odds with partners, threatening to undermine the EU’s unity in helping Ukraine.

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Hateful rhetoric

Caputova, a political enemy of Fico, condemned in a Facebook post what she described as a “brutal and reckless attack” on the prime minister.

“I am shocked,” she wrote. “I wish Robert Fico all the strength to recover from the attack at this critical time.” Hateful rhetoric leads to “hateful actions,” she later told reporters.

It was the first shooting of a European leader since the assassination of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic in March 2003. The pro-European reformer who took a stand against organized crime was killed after being shot in central Belgrade.

The Slovak parliament in Bratislava suspended its session as leaders from across the political spectrum decried the attack, the first of its kind in the country’s history.

Fico, a polarizing figure, made a political comeback last year after resigning in disgrace in 2018 in response to mass demonstrations over the shooting death of an investigative journalist investigating corruption in Slovakia.

Since his return, he has provoked national protests because of the rewriting of the criminal code and the abolition of a special public prosecutor’s office. Last month he lashed out at the country’s media for what he called hostility toward the government as his cabinet proposed tighter controls on public television and radio.

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In Handlova, Fico’s cabinet approved a plan to build a nuclear reactor, joining an effort in the eastern European Union to expand nuclear energy production.

Fico’s allies seized on the attack to accuse the opposition of fomenting divisions in the country.

(Updates with statement from outgoing president from third paragraph.)

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