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Robert Fico: Slovakia’s PM in life-threatening condition after being shot multiple times



CNN

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was in hospital in life-threatening condition on Wednesday after being shot several times during an assassination attempt.

The shooting took place after an off-site government meeting in the town of Handlova in central Slovakia. The suspected shooter was part of a small crowd of people waiting to welcome the prime minister on the street outside the cultural center, where the meeting took place, local media reported.

Footage from the scene showed the injured prime minister being taken into a vehicle by his team, before it fled with him inside. Fico was taken to a local hospital and then transferred by helicopter to a large trauma center about 30 kilometers away in Banska Bystrica.

A statement posted on Fico’s official Facebook page and his party’s website called the attack an “assassination attempt.”

“He was shot several times and is currently in a life-threatening condition. The next few hours will be decisive,” according to the press release.

No one else was injured in the attack, according to Slovak Labor Minister Erik Tomáš.

Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP

Robert Fico is taken to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica after being shot.

The official statement said the prime minister was taken to Banska Bystrica instead of the capital Bratislava because “acute intervention” was necessary. Handlova is about a two-hour drive from the capital Bratislava.

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová said the suspected shooter had been arrested by police. She said law enforcement would release more information as soon as they could and asked the public not to spread unconfirmed rumors. Video from the scene showed a man on the ground being arrested by several officials.

Čaputová condemned what she called a “brutal and reckless” attack on the 59-year-old politician. “I am shocked. I wish Roberto Fico all the strength to recover from the attack at this critical moment,” Čaputová wrote on Facebook. Speaking at a press conference later in the day after midday, she said the attack was “also an attack on democracy.”

Opposition MP Maria Kolikova called the assault an “attack on internal security” of Slovakia.

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An eyewitness who was at the scene where Fico was shot said the attack sounded like a “nightmare” after hearing three “rapid” gunshots, fired one after the other as if “you had to” throw a firecracker on the ground.

“I heard three gunshots, it was fast, one by one, like you throw a firecracker on the ground,” eyewitness Lubica Valkova told Reuters, adding that “he (Fico) fell next to the fence.

“I think it’s a nightmare, I’ll tell you I don’t think I’ll wake up from it,” the 66-year-old said. “This is not possible in Slovakia.”

Valkova said she had been waiting a long time to shake Fico’s hand and was taking photos of him as he walked out of the building in Handlova.

“At that moment we heard something like a bang, we thought someone made a joke and threw a firecracker on the ground, that was my first reaction,” Valkova recalls.

The Slovak resident told Reuters she had been waiting since 10 a.m. local time. She claimed police did not search people waiting at the event, adding that “we could have shown our hands empty.”

In what was a resounding comeback for the controversial politician, Fico won a third term as Slovak prime minister last October after leading a campaign criticizing Western support for Ukraine. Fico pledged to immediately end Slovak military support for Ukraine and promised to block Ukraine’s NATO ambitions, undermining Slovakia’s unwavering support for Ukraine. .

Before the election, Fico made no secret of his sympathies with the Kremlin and accused “Ukrainian Nazis and fascists” of pushing Vladimir Putin to launch the invasion, repeating the false narrative used by the Russian president to justify his invasion .

While in opposition, Fico became a close ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, particularly when it came to criticism of the European Union.

Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP via Getty Images/FILE

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico attends a European Council summit in Brussels, April 18, 2024.

Fico served as Slovak prime minister for more than a decade, first between 2006 and 2010, then from 2012 to 2018. He was forced to resign in March 2018 after weeks of massive protests over the investigative journalist’s murder Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. , Martina Kušnírová. Kuciak pointed to corruption among the country’s elite, particularly among those directly linked to Fico and his SMER party.

World leaders immediately condemned the attack.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: “I strongly condemn the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico. Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with Prime Minister Fico and his family.

And Hungarian Prime Minister Orban added: “I was deeply shocked by the heinous attack on my friend, Prime Minister Robert Fico. We pray for his health and speedy recovery! God bless him and his country!

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his “solidarity with the Slovak people” following the “appalling” attack on Fico.

“We strongly condemn this act of violence against the head of government of our neighboring partner state. Every effort must be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere,” he posted on X.

US President Joe Biden said he was “alarmed” by the attempted assassination of Fico, calling it a “horrific act of violence”.

“Jill and I are praying for a speedy recovery, and our thoughts are with her family and the people of Slovakia,” he said in a statement.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

News Source : amp.cnn.com
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