Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico’s would-be assassin was ‘lone wolf,’ officials say

Slovak authorities charged a person Thursday with making an attempt to assassinate populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, saying the suspect acted alone in a politically motivated assault that laid naked the intense polarization that has gripped the small central European nation.

Fico, 59, was in critical however steady situation a day after being shot a number of occasions within the abdomen, a hospital official mentioned. President-elect Peter Pellegrini mentioned he spoke to Fico on the hospital however confirmed his situation “remains very serious.”

The tried assassination has shocked the nation and reverberated throughout the continent weeks forward of European elections. While President Zuzana Caputova referred to as on everybody to take the chance to dial again the vitriol that has characterised the political debate, some authorities ministers took purpose at Slovakia’s media for contributing to the fractious environment.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico gesturing during a press conference at Carmelita monastery in Budapest
Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico gesturing throughout a press convention at Carmelita monastery in Budapest. AFP by way of Getty Images

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok requested journalists to “reflect” on how that they had coated Fico’s insurance policies. He referred to the suspect — who was charged with premeditated homicide — as a “lone wolf” who didn’t belong to any political teams, although he mentioned the assault itself was politically motivated.

Fico has lengthy been a divisive determine in Slovakia and past, and his return to energy final 12 months on a pro-Russian, anti-American message led to even higher worries amongst fellow European Union and NATO members that he would abandon his nation’s pro-Western course — significantly on Ukraine. At the beginning of Russia’s invasion, Slovakia was considered one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, however Fico halted arms deliveries to the neighbor when he got here to energy.

Fico’s authorities has additionally made efforts to overhaul public broadcasting — a transfer critics mentioned would outcome within the authorities’s full management of public tv and radio. That coupled along with his plans to amend the penal code to eradicate a particular anti-graft prosecutor have led opponents to fret that Fico will lead Slovakia down a extra autocratic path.

Thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly rallied within the capital and across the nation of 5.4 million to protest his insurance policies.

Slovak police have offered little data on the id of the suspect. But unconfirmed media stories steered he was a 71-year-old retiree who was generally known as an newbie poet, and will have beforehand labored as a safety guard at a mall within the nation’s southwest.

Slovak Police Corps Vice presidents Ivan Hapstak and Rastislav Polakovic with President Lubomir Solak at a press conference about an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico
Slovak Police Corps Vice presidents Ivan Hapstak and Rastislav Polakovic with President Lubomir Solak at a press convention about an assassination try on Prime Minister Robert Fico. AFP by way of Getty Images

At a information convention on Thursday following a gathering of Slovakia’s Security Council, authorities ministers gave extra particulars concerning the man, whereas nonetheless not naming him.

Estok mentioned that the person himself cited his dissatisfaction with a number of of Fico’s insurance policies as motivation for the assault. The minister mentioned presidential elections within the spring prompted the assault, and that the suspect had attended a latest anti-government protest.

“I can confirm to you that the reason it was a politically motivated, attempted premeditated murder is as the suspect himself said: the media information that he had at his disposal,” he mentioned. “I think each of you can reflect on the way you presented it.”

At the identical information convention, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kaliňák additionally blamed the media for tensions within the nation.

The tenor of these remarks stood in distinction to a information convention earlier within the day when the nation’s outgoing and subsequent presidents — political rivals — appeared collectively in an enchantment for Slovaks to beat their more and more tense political variations.

“Let us step out of the vicious circle of hatred and mutual accusations,” mentioned Caputova, the outgoing president and a rival of Fico’s. “What happened yesterday was an individual act. But the tense atmosphere of hatred was our collective work.”

Police officers detaining a person after a shooting incident involving Slovak PM Robert Fico in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024
Police officers detaining an individual after a capturing incident involving Slovak PM Robert Fico in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024. REUTERS

Pellegrini, the president-elect, referred to as on political events to droop or reduce their campaigns for European elections, which can be held June 6-9.

“If there is anything that the people of Slovakia urgently need today, it is at least basic agreement and unity among the Slovak political representation. And if not consensus, then please, at least civilized ways of discussing among each other,” Pelligrini mentioned.

Zuzana Eliasova, a resident of the capital, Bratislava, mentioned the assault on Fico was a “shock” to the nation and an assault on democracy at a time when political tensions have been already operating excessive.

“I believe that a lot of people or even the whole society will look into their conscience, because the polarization here has been huge among all different parts of society,” she mentioned.

Doctors carried out a five-hour operation on Fico, who was initially reported to be in life-threatening situation, based on director of the F.D. Roosevelt Hospital in Banska Bystrica, Miriam Lapunikova. He is being handled in an intensive care unit.

Five photographs have been fired as Fico was greeting supporters at an occasion Wednesday within the former coal mining city of Handlova, practically 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital, authorities officials mentioned.

Fico returned to energy in Slovakia final 12 months, having beforehand served twice as prime minister. He and his Smer social gathering have most frequently been described as left-populist, although he has additionally been in comparison with politicians on the proper just like the nationalist prime minister of neighboring Hungary, Viktor Orbán.

Condemnation of the assault got here from each Fico’s allies and adversaries overseas. On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin despatched a message to President Caputova, expressing his assist and wishing the prime minister a quick and full restoration.

“This atrocious crime cannot be justified,” Putin mentioned within the message launched by the Kremlin. “I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-willed person. I truly hope these personal qualities will help him overcome this harsh situation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy additionally denounced the violence towards a neighboring nation’s head of presidency.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere,” he mentioned.

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