Slovakia’s populist, pro-Russian prime minister is shot and seriously wounded

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, center, speaks with people before a cabinet meeting in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, on Wednesday.

Radovan Stoklasa/AP

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, center, speaks with people before a cabinet meeting in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, on Wednesday.

Radovan Stoklasa/AP

PRAGUE — Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting after a political event Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile.

The populist, pro-Russian leader, 59, was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of the capital where the leader was meeting with supporters, according to reports on TA3, a Slovakian TV station.

A suspect has been detained, it said.

A message posted to Fico’s Facebook account said that the leader “has been shot multiple times and is currently in life-threatening condition.”

It said he was being transported by helicopter to the Banská Bystrica, 29 kilometers (63 miles) away from Handlova because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute procedure.

“The next few hours will decide,” it said.

Reactions of shock in Slovakia and across Europe

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called the assassination “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy. If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardizing everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovak sovereignty.”

There were reactions of shock from across Europe, and some were calling it an attempted assassination of the leader in the NATO state, although no motive for the shooting was immediately apparent.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg posted on the social media platform X that he was “shocked and appalled by the shooting.”

The shooting in Slovakia comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and hard-right parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.



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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks during a press conference before he was shot and injured after the cabinet’s session in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, on Wednesday.

Radovan Stoklasa/TSAR via AP

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks during a press conference before he was shot and injured after the cabinet’s session in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, on Wednesday.

Radovan Stoklasa/TSAR via AP

Deputy speaker of parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of Slovakia’s Parliament and adjourned it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

Slovakia’s major opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, canceled a planned protest against a controversial government plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give the government full control of public radio and television.

“We absolutely and strongly condemn violence and today’s shooting of Premier Robert Fico,” said Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. “At the same time we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps which could contribute to further increasing the tension.”

President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier.

“I’m shocked,” Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

Fico campaigned on pro-Russian, anti-American message

Fico, a third-time premier, and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia’s Sept. 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

Critics worried Slovakia under Fico would abandon the country’s pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.



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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks during a press conference with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, on Jan. 16.

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks during a press conference with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Hungary, Tuesday, on Jan. 16.

Denes Erdos/AP

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

Condemnations of political violence quickly came from leaders across Europe, although no motive for the attack was immediately apparent.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned what she described as a “vile attack.”

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” von der Leyen said in a post on X.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala called the incident “shocking,” adding “I wish the premier to get well soon. We cannot tolerate violence, there’s no place for it in society.” The Czech Republic and Slovakia formed Czechoslovakia till 1992.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on the social media network X: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

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