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Slovak PM Robert Fico released from hospital after assassination attempt, moved to home care

Fico, 59, was shot multiple times as he was exiting a government building in the former coal mining town of Handlova, shocking the country and the world. The attacker, identified as Juraj C, said he did not intend to kill Fico but wanted to hurt him as he disagreed with his policies.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Bratislava Published on: June 01, 2024 16:48 IST
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico
Image Source : REUTERS Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico

Bratislava: Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico has been released from hospital to home care in the central city of Banska Bystrica following an assassination attempt on May 15, the hospital said. Fico was shot four times at close range by a 71-year-old attacker as he was greeting supporters at a government meeting in Slovakia's central town on Handlova last month.

The attack left Fico, 59, in a serious condition and needing a five-hour operation and another one two days later. The attacker, identified as 71-year-old Juraj C, was detained on the spot and charged with attempted premeditated murder. The assassination attempt was the first on a European political leader for over 20 years and highlighted the deep political polarisation within the country.

A day after the shooting, 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. "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. 

Reactions to the assassination attempt on Fico

The attempt on Fico’s life came at a time of high division in Slovakia, as thousands of demonstrators 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.

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.”

What did the attacker say?

Juraj C, who shot Fico multiple times, said he wanted to hurt the Slovak PM because he disagreed with government policies and used a gun he had owned for more than 30 years. The suspect, a former security guard at a shopping mall, according to the media, was cited as saying no one else knew about his plan. He apologised for his actions and was prepared to apologise to Fico, according to a document released by the Specialised Criminal Court.

The court order said the suspect stated he had "decided to act" as he disagreed with government policy, "the cancelling of the USP (special prosecutor office), and he disagrees with the persecution of cultural and media workers, and what he mainly wants is military aid to be provided to Ukraine". 

The suspect had arrived in front of the building at 2:35 pm on the fateful day and waited with others at a barrier with the gun and two magazines of around 10 bullets each. When Fico came close, "he aimed at (Fico), specifically at the lower part of his torso", said the court order, which blocked out names of the attacker, victim and witnesses. The order said the suspect said he did not intend to kill him but "wanted to injure him and damage his health".

Fico's leftist-nationalist government coalition has faced opposition protests and European Commission criticism for some policy pivots, which critics say damage the rule of law and media freedom. His government ended state military to Ukraine, held dialogue with Russia, dismantled a special prosecutor's office fighting corruption, and is overhauling the country's public TV and radio broadcaster.

(with inputs from Reuters)

ALSO READ | Donald Tusk, Polish PM says he received death threats after assassination attempt on Slovakia's PM



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