Leader of Slovakia stabilized after 5 hours in surgery following assassination

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Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico, is currently in stable but serious condition following a harrowing assassination attempt that has shaken the entire central European nation and drawn widespread condemnation globally.
Leader of Slovakia stabilized after 5 hours in surgery following assassination
Leader of Slovakia stabilized after 5 hours in surgery following assassination

The 59-year-old leader, known for his populist stance and controversial policies that have sparked recent protests, was targeted after an off-site government meeting in Handlova. As he approached a small gathering of supporters, a suspected gunman from the crowd suddenly lunged forward and fired five shots at close range, causing immediate chaos and injury.

Footage from the scene captured the prime minister being swiftly evacuated into a waiting vehicle by his staff and rushed to a local hospital. He was later airlifted to a major trauma center in Banská Bystrica, where he underwent extensive surgery lasting over five hours, as confirmed by hospital officials.

Miriam Lapuníková, the hospital director, provided an update on Thursday stating that Fico’s condition had been stabilized but remained very serious. She emphasized that Fico would continue to receive intensive care and treatment under the care of two surgical teams.

Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kaliňák, alongside Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj Eštok, held an emotional press conference outside the hospital, acknowledging the severity of the situation and describing Fico as “fighting for his life.” They highlighted the ongoing efforts to stabilize and improve the prime minister’s health in the face of this grave ordeal.

The two ministers, visibly shaken and at times struggling to find words, expressed profound shock during the news conference following the attack. As the conference progressed, their demeanor shifted to a more assertive tone, attributing the attack to the “hatred” propagated by certain individuals and the media.

Local media outlets have identified the alleged shooter as a 71-year-old man from southern Slovakia, although official confirmation of his identity is pending. Video footage from the incident and subsequent arrest clearly showed the suspect’s face.

Reports from Slovakian media indicate that the shooter was associated with the Slovak Writers’ Association. However, no one else was injured in the attack, and the suspected gunman was promptly apprehended by police.

Both the defense and interior ministers have characterized the shooting as “politically motivated,” with Minister Šutaj Eštok suggesting a link to the timing of the presidential election.

Robert Fico, the targeted prime minister, holds significant authority as Slovakia’s most influential lawmaker, in contrast to the president, whose role is largely ceremonial. As the head of government, Fico wields decision-making power in governing the country.

Divisive figure in divided country

Since Robert Fico’s return to power last year, Slovakia has experienced profound divisions regarding the country’s direction and global stance. Supporters view Fico as a compassionate leader who prioritizes their interests, while critics denounce him as a populist with pro-Russian inclinations that pose significant risks.

Slovakia’s defense and interior ministers have attributed the political atmosphere that led to the assassination attempt to the surge in hate speech and division within the nation.

During his tenure as prime minister, Fico orchestrated a notable shift in Slovakia’s foreign policy, moving away from its staunch support for Ukraine by ending military assistance to Kyiv and opposing Ukraine’s NATO aspirations.

Fico’s domestic policies have also fueled controversy, particularly his efforts to revamp the criminal justice system by reducing penalties for corruption and dismantling the special prosecutor’s office dedicated to tackling severe corruption cases.

Additionally, the government is seeking to close down the public service broadcaster and establish a new national broadcaster under stricter state supervision, sparking weeks of peaceful protests.

Robert Fico previously served as Slovakia’s prime minister for more than a decade, from 2006 to 2010 and then again from 2012 to 2018, leaving a lasting impact on the country’s political landscape and eliciting varied reactions from its citizens.

 

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