Slovak PM Fico in ‘life-threatening’ condition after assassination bid during public interaction

Bratislava, May 15 (IANS) Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has taken his central European country to a neutral stance on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, was shot on Wednesday as he interacted with the public after a government meeting, and his condition is “life-threatening”, reports said.

The incident occurred in Handlova town, around 180 km northeast of Bratislava, as per local media reports.

Multiple shots were fired at Fico, 59, RT reported, citing Slovakia’s TA3 News. According to reports, he was also shot point-blank.

The PM collapsed and was carried to a car by his security detail, it said.

Fico was shot “multiple times” and his condition is “life-threatening,” the Prime Minister’s office announced on Facebook. He is currently being airlifted from Handlova to a hospital in Banska Bystrica as flying him to Bratislava would take too long, it added.

“The next few hours will decide” whether he survives, the PM’s office said.

A Slovak Interior Ministry spokesman confirmed it was an assassination attempt.

The suspect was restrained by police and arrested, Slovakian newspaper Dennik N reported. Video footage purportedly showed officers pinning the attacker to the ground after the shooting.

A witness told Dennik N that she heard three or four shots, saw the PM fall to the ground, and claimed he suffered wounds on his head and chest, the BBC reported.

President Zuzana Caputova, who has clashed with the PM over his Ukraine policy, condemned the “brutal and reckless” attack on Fico, and wished him “a lot of strength at this critical moment”.

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, who will succeed Caputova next month and is an ally of Fico, termed the attempt on the PM’s life “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy”.

“If we express differing political views with guns in the squares, and not in the polling stations, we threaten everything that we have built together during the 31 years of Slovak sovereignty,” he said in a statement.

Other European leaders expressed shock at the news.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said he is “deeply shocked by the heinous attack against my friend, Prime Minister Robert Fico”.

His Czech counterpart Petr Fiala said the shooting was “shocking” and wished Fico a quick recovery.

Fico, who returned to office in October last year after serving two stints as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018, halted the previous policy of military aid to Kiev and called for a negotiated settlement between Russia and Ukraine.

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