Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico shot

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico shot

The populist prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, was in life-threatening condition Wednesday after being shot in an “attempted assassination,” his office said.

A suspect was arrested following the shooting, according to officials.

Fico’s Facebook page said in an update: “He was shot multiple times and is in a life-threatening state.”

It said that he was being taken to a hospital in the city of Banská Bystrica rather than in the capital, Bratislava, because “it would take too long considering the urgency of the matter.”

At a news conference following the attack, Slovakia’s president, Zuzana Čaputová, said police arrested a suspect and would provide further information.

“Until then, let us not pass quick judgments, please,” she said.

A TASR reporter said that several shots were fired in the town of Handlova, about 110 miles northeast of the capital Bratislava. Fico was greeting members of the public after a government meeting, the news agency reported.

Čaputová confirmed the attack on Fico, 59, shortly after the news broke.

“Utterly shocked by today’s brutal and reckless attack on #Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, which I condemn in strongest possible terms,” she said in a message on X. “I wish him lot of strength in this critical moment and early recovery. My thoughts are also with his family and close ones,” she added.

A person is detained after the shooting in Handlova, Slovakia.Radovan Stoklasa / Reuters

Photos on news agencies showed a man appearing to be detained in Handlova. Video captured at the scene and shared on social media showed another man being carried into a car by security staff in dark suits.

Fico was elected in October last year as leader of the leftist Smer party, meaning direction, standing on a pro-Russian and anti-American populist platform.

The veteran politician had already served as prime minister twice before returning to the role last year as part of a power-sharing deal with two other parties. Fico faced criticism earlier this month as thousands of Slovaks rallied against a plan to overhaul public radio and television in the country of 5.4 million, sparking fears of government control and a shift away from pro-Western ties.

Fico has found common cause with Viktor Orban, the right-wing authoritarian leader of Hungary, Slovakia’s neighbor to the south, in ending support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion and criticizing Western support for Kyiv. Slovakia also shares a border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the attack on Fico in a post on X, saying his country stands in solidarity with the Slovakian people.

“We strongly condemn this act of violence against our neighboring partner state’s head of government,” the post said. “Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form, or sphere.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, also strongly condemned the attempt on Fico’s life.

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

Slovakia is an E.U. member.

Other European leaders offered their support.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the incident was “shocking” and added: “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 until 1992.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz decried what he called a “cowardly attack” and said that “violence must not be existent in European politics.”

Slovakia’s main opposition parties canceled a planned protest against a plan to overhaul public broadcasting that they say would give Fico’s government full control of public radio and television, according to The Associated Press.

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

Peter Pellegrini, a close Fico ally and incoming president of the coutntry, said the incident marked “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy.”

He added: “If we express different political opinions with guns in the squares, and not in polling stations, we endanger everything we have built together in 31 years of Slovak sovereignty.”

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