Slovakia's pro-Russia Prime Minister Robert Fico wounded in apparent assassination attempt

Updated

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and wounded in an apparent assassination attempt Wednesday as he made an appearance outside a community center, local media reported.

Fico was airlifted to a nearby hospital. His official Facebook page said he was "shot multiple times." Slovak broadcaster TA3 said Fico, 59, was shot in the abdomen after a meeting in the town of Handlova, about 100 miles northeast of the capital Bratislava, in central Slovakia. On Thursday, Slovakian officials said Fico was in a serious but stable condition after undergoing multiple surgeries.

The alleged assailant, who has not been formally identified, was detained by police.

What do we know about Robert Fico's alleged shooter?

There are some unconfirmed reports the alleged perpetrator is a 71-year-old writer and political activist and Slovakian media, citing government officials, said the shooting appeared to be politically motivated.

Video published on social media, which USA TODAY has not verified, appeared to show several men rushing to detain the suspect.

According to the daily newspaper Dennik N, the suspected perpetrator is from the small western town of Levice and a founding member of the Rainbow Literary Club.

In a post on X, Slovakai's President Zuzana ?aputová said she was "utterly shocked by today's brutal attack on #Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, which I condemn in strongest possible terms. I wish him lot of strength in this critical moment and early recovery. My thoughts are also with his family and close ones."

There was also strong condemnation from international leaders.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the incident was a "vile attack" on Fico.

President Joe Biden said in a statement that he was "alarmed" to hear about the attack and that the U.S. government was "in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist."

Fico has been prime minister since 2023, a role he previously held. The European Policy Center think tank describes him as a "pro-Russian populist" who blends "social populism, nationalism and anti-liberalism."

He resigned as prime minister in 2018 in the wake of an investigation into the murder of Ján Kuciak, a journalist who had regularly reported on cases of organized crime and corruption in Slovakia, including articles on alleged tax fraud committed by prominent members of the country’s business community. Fico offered to step down to respect calls for political change following large street protests over Kuciak's murder. He returned to power last year in a coalition government, at the helm of a populist left-wing party named Smer-SSD. One of Fico's campaign pledges was to halt all military aid to Ukraine. He has repeatedly denied being pro-Russian.

"This is a government very on edge with strong antagonism toward the opposition and the media and toward critics in the West," said Kevin Deegan-Krause, a political scientist at Wayne State University who specializes in Eastern Europe, in emailed comments.

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The last assassination of a major political figure was in 2022, when Shinzo Abe, Japan's former prime minister, was shot and killed by a lone gunman while campaigning for his ruling party. Serving Haitian President Jovenel Moi?se was shot dead in 2021 in his private residence in Port-au-Prince by a band of 28 armed men.

Contributing: Swapna Venugopal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico hospitalized after shooting

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