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Slovak PM Fico undergoes another operation after murder attempt, remains in serious condition

Fico, 59, was shot multiple times as he was exiting a government building in the former coal mining town of Handlova. The attempt on his life deeply shook the Europaean country, with many blaming the extreme political polarisation for the attack.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Bratislava Published on: May 17, 2024 18:40 IST
Robert Fico, Slovak PM, assassination attempt
Image Source : REUTERS Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Bratislava: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent another operation after being shot in an assassination attempt on Wednesday and remained in serious condition, according to the country’s deputy prime minister and defence minister Robert Kalinak. Fico, 59, was shot five times after exiting a government building in the former coal mining town of Handlova, which shook the nation.

The government said on Friday that the prime minister remained in an intensive care unit of the University FD Roosevelt Hospital in Banska Bystrica, where he was taken by helicopter after he was shot. A 71-year-old man charged with attempting to assassinate the Slovak PM was escorted by police to his home on Friday morning in an apparent search for evidence.

The previous day, Slovakia's Interior Minister said a “lone wolf” had been charged in the shooting that seriously wounded Fico and prompted soul-searching among leaders in the deeply divided society. The attempted assassination has shocked the small central European nation, with many blaming the attack in part on extreme political polarisation that has divided the country.

Was it a politically motivated attack?

Fico was earlier reported as coming out of a life-threatening condition, and his current condition was serious but stable. Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister Tomas Taraba said one bullet went through Fico's stomach and a second hit a joint. Fico was transported by helicopter to the regional capital Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment.

"This assassination (attempt) was politically motivated and the perpetrator's decision was born closely after the presidential election," Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said, referring to an April election won by a Fico ally, Peter Pellegrini. However, he later said the suspect charged was a lone wolf who “did not belong to any political groups.”

The minister did not specify what the motivation was. Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond, and his return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American message led to even greater worries among fellow European Union members that he would abandon his country's pro-Western course.

The attempt on Fico’s life came at a time of high division in Slovakia, as thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly rallied in the capital and around the country to protest his policies. It also comes just ahead of June elections for the European Parliament. Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, an opponent of Fico, said Thursday that the heads of the country’s political parties would meet in an effort to bring calm, saying the attack was a reflection of an increasingly polarised society.

Reactions to the incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed shock at the shooting incident that injured Fico. He condemned the "cowardly and dastardly" assassination attempt and wished a speedy recovery to his Slovak counterpart. "India stands in solidarity with the people of the Slovak Republic," he added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden joined Slovakia's EU partners in expressing shock and condemnation of the shooting. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg posted on the social media platform X that he was “shocked and appalled" by the attempt on Fico's life, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a “vile attack.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the violence against a neighbouring country's head of government. “Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere,” he said.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Slovakia PM assassination attempt: 'Lone wolf charged for shooting did not belong to any political group'

 

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