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Slovak Prime Minister still in serious condition after assassination attempt, suspect appears in court

The condition of the Prime Minister of Slovakia remains serious attacked and shot several times Earlier this week, officials said Saturday.

Health Minister Zuzana Dolinkova said Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent a two-hour operation on Friday to remove dead tissue from multiple gunshot wounds that “contributed to a positive prognosis.” Dolinkova spoke outside the University FD Roosevelt Hospital in Banska Bystrica, where Fico was taken by helicopter after the shooting.

“In recent days, several miracles have occurred in Banska Bystrica at the hands of doctors, nurses and the staff of the Roosevelt Hospital,” Defense Minister Robert Kalinak said.

Fico, 59, was attacked as he greeted supporters after a government meeting Wednesday in the former mining town of Handlova, almost 85 miles (136 kilometers) northeast of the capital. At least four shots were fired outside a cultural center and the The suspect was tackled to the ground and arrested.

Video footage from the scene showed security personnel rushing the injured prime minister into a car before driving away at high speed. He was transferred to a helicopter and cameras then captured him being rolled to hospital on a stretcher covered in blankets.

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Shooting incident of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after the Slovak government meeting in Handlova
A person is arrested after a shooting incident that injured Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after a rally in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024.

Radovan Stoklasa/REUTERS

Fico’s condition is still too serious to transport him to the capital Bratislava, Kalinak said.

According to Slovak state media, the update on Fico’s health came at the same time the man accused of killing him made his first court appearance.

Prosecutors requested an order from Slovakia’s Specialized Criminal Court to detain the suspect.

Prosecutors told police they could not publicly identify the man or release other details about the case, but unconfirmed media reports said he was a 71-year-old retiree known as an amateur poet who may once have worked as a mall security guard in the south-west of the country has worked. .

The attempted homicide shocked the small Central European nation, with many blaming the attack in part on the extreme political polarization dividing the country.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said on Wednesday that an initial investigation had revealed “a clear political motivation” behind the attack on Fico as he attended a government meeting in a former mining town. However, he said Thursday that the accused suspect was a lone wolf who “did not belong to any political group.”

The courthouse in Pezinok, a small town outside the capital Bratislava, was guarded by officers wearing balaclavas and carrying guns. News media were not allowed inside and reporters were kept behind a fence outside.

Police had taken the suspect to his home in the town of Levice on Friday and seized a computer and some documents, Markiza, a Slovak television station, reported. The police made no comment.

World leaders condemned the attack and offered support to Fico and Slovakia.

Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform raised concerns among fellow members of the European Union and NATO that he would abandon his country’s pro-Western stance, especially on Ukraine.

At the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, Slovakia was one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, but Fico halted arms supplies to Ukraine when he returned to power, his fourth time as prime minister.

Fico’s government has also made efforts to overhaul the public broadcaster – a move that critics say would give the government full control over public television and radio. That, coupled with his plans to change the criminal code and eliminate a special anti-graft prosecutor, has led opponents to worry that Fico will lead Slovakia down a more autocratic path.

Thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly gathered in the capital and across the country of 5.4 million people to protest his policies.

Fico said on Facebook last month that he believed rising tensions in the country could lead to the assassination of politicians, and he blamed the media for stoking tensions.

Before Fico returned to power last year, many of his political and business associates were at the center of police investigations, and dozens have been charged.

His plan to overhaul the penal system would eliminate the office of the special prosecutor who deals with organized crime, corruption and extremism.

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