Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico hospitalized following assassination attempt

The PM was shot on Wednesday afternoon as he walked out into the crowd after a cabinet meeting.


Written by ČTK Published on 15.05.2024 15:44:00 (updated on 16.05.2024) Reading time: 4 minutes

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot on Wednesday afternoon as he walked out into the crowd after a cabinet meeting in the town of Handlová, Central Slovakia.

The newspaper reported that police have detained the likely attacker. Slovak Television stated that the prime minister was transported to a Banská Bystrica hospital. Fico’s condition is unknown, but news outlet Nexta reported that he was shot in the head and abdomen.

A news reporter heard several gunshots and witnessed the prime minister subsequently being lifted off the ground by members of his security detail and placed into a vehicle before being driven away. The reporter did not witness the incident itself.

Witnesses reported that several shots were fired from the scene after Fico approached people who were greeting him. Following this, the politician fell to the ground.

In response to the incident, the deputy speaker of the Slovak parliament indefinitely suspended the parliamentary session, which had convened to discuss a new law on public television and radio during an emergency session earlier in the morning.

Slovak politicians are condemning the attack. President Zuzana Čaputová described the shooting as "brutal and ruthless” in a post on social network X.

Czech leaders respond

Czech politicians, including Prime Minister Petr Fiala and former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, condemned the attack, emphasizing that violence has no place in society or politics.

President Petr Pavel of Czechia said: “The attack on Fico is unequivocally reprehensible, whatever the motivation. It should be a warning to us about how far the deepening of animosity and aggression in society can lead. I wish him to come out of this incident without [further] consequences.”

“I was shocked by today’s attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. I absolutely condemn violence in politics. I wish him a speedy recovery,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Jan Lipavský.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said: “Violence does not belong in politics. It doesn't really belong anywhere. I unequivocally and emphatically condemn the attack on the Slovak prime minister.”

The likely attacker has been detained by police.

The attack is being called an assassination attempt, the spokesman for Slovak Interior Minister Matej Neumann said.

Further information on the health condition of the 59-year-old Fico is not known. The health service said it had sent a rescue helicopter to the PM's aid.

The shooter

According to local media reports, a 71-year-old man from southern Slovakia is behind the shooting.  The Markiza television channel said the attacker is a writer from the Slovak town of Levice and that he arrived at the scene of the shooting in his own car. 

The news portal reported that the attacker legally owned the gun that was fired several times at the prime minister. It added that the man had published several poetry collections in the past and worked for a private security service in 2016.  The shooter had himself experienced a shooting in a shopping mall some years ago.


Fico's life is still in danger

Slovak Defense Minister Robert Kaliňák reported that Fico's condition remains serious and his life is still in danger, Kalinak says. The injuries from four gunshots are extensive, and Fico may have to relearn some things.

The medical team is working hard to stabilize his condition, but it is too early to determine a positive prognosis. Kalinak expressed gratitude to the medical staff and stated that the attack has caused the country's democracy to regress.

This event has also raised concerns about the current political environment in Slovakia. Kalinak emphasized the importance of living in a society where individuals can express their opinions without fear of violence.

The attacker, who was not associated with any radical political group and acted as a lone wolf, was reportedly motivated by the government's policies, which he learned about through media sources. The attacker was particularly dissatisfied with the outcome of the recent presidential election.

Czech experts link shooting with societal discord

Czech political science experts have linked the shooting to the growing polarization and radicalization in Slovak society, which has been fueled by recent elections and disinformation campaigns. Some commentators warn that extreme polarizing statements from politicians and the media can create a dangerous environment for political violence.

Political analyst Aleš Michal of Charles University described as worrying how radical attitudes are becoming mainstream. "This is reflected, for example, in the way the new Slovak government approaches the independence of the judiciary and the media, how it favors disinformation media presenting radical views over standard journalistic work," he said earlier today.

Jan Charvat, also a political scientist at Charles University, recalled the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kusnirova in 2018 and the homophobic murder of two people at the Teplaren bar in Bratislava in 2022.

"Attacks on journalists and rival politicians are basically a continuation and reinforcement of this trend, and are thus extremely irresponsible and dangerous. In my opinion, the way out of this situation is only uniting around the principles of democracy and the rule of law," he said.

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