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Robert Fico: suspect accused of attempted murder of Slovak Prime Minister

Video caption, At the scene of the shooting of the Slovak Prime Minister

  • Author, Emilie Atkinson
  • Role, BBC News

A man has been charged with attempted murder of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after he was seriously injured in a shooting.

The alleged attacker has not been officially named, but Slovak reports have widely identified him as a 71-year-old man from the town of Levice.

Reports indicate he faces life in prison.

Mr. Fico, 59, is in serious but stable condition after being shot multiple times in what his colleagues described as a politically motivated attack.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told a news conference on Thursday that the suspect had acted alone and had previously participated in anti-government protests.

“He is a lone wolf whose actions accelerated after the presidential election because he was unhappy with the outcome,” he said.

Shot five times at close range

It was in broad daylight on Wednesday that Mr. Fico, surrounded by a crowd of supporters, was shot dead at point blank range.

A gunman fired five times, hitting the Prime Minister in the stomach and arm.

The attack completely surprised Mr. Fico’s security services. Footage shows several police officers taking the injured prime minister into a car, before driving away at high speed, while the others arrested the suspect.

Mr Fico was rushed to a nearby hospital in an air ambulance, with injuries described as life-threatening.

He was then transferred to another facility in Banska Bystrica, east of Handlova, where surgeons and trauma teams worked through the night to stabilize him.

On Thursday, the hospital director told a news conference that Mr. Fico’s condition was stable, but “really very serious,” and that he had been transferred to an intensive care unit.

Mr. Pellegrini later said he visited Mr. Fico, who was able to speak a few sentences.

“The situation is very critical and we have to give it a lot of energy and be positive,” Mr Pellegrini said.

Video caption, Slovak prime minister shot dead in assassination attempt

Local media describe the suspect as a writer and political activist.

A video widely distributed in the Slovak media claims to feature it.

In the footage, the man says he disagrees with government policy and its stance towards state media. The BBC has neither verified whether the person in the video is the perpetrator who was arrested at the scene, nor the circumstances in which the video was filmed.

Politically motivated attack

Several Slovak politicians called the shooting an “attack on democracy.”

On Thursday, Slovakia’s outgoing president, Zuzana Caputova, called for calm and invited all party leaders to a meeting to discuss political tensions.

Furthermore, Slovak President-elect Peter Pellegrini called on all parties to suspend their campaigns before the European Parliament elections scheduled for early June.

Mr. Fico is a controversial figure in his country because of his calls to end military aid to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

Legend, Mr. Fico was in the town of Handlova when he was attacked

The shooting occurred on the day parliament began discussing the government’s proposal to abolish Slovak public broadcaster RTVS.

Thousands of Slovaks have protested in recent weeks against the public broadcaster’s proposed reform. However, a planned protest by the opposition was canceled on Wednesday following news of the shooting.

In his interview with the BBC, Deputy Prime Minister Taraba blamed the shooting on “false narratives” from opposition parties in Slovakia.

“Our prime minister has mentioned several times in the past that he is afraid this will happen,” Mr Taraba said in another interview with the BBC’s World Tonight programme.

And Interior Minister Mr Estok accused the media of contributing to the climate that led to the 59-year-old’s shooting, telling a news conference: “Many of you were those who sowed this hatred.”

Pavol Strba, foreign affairs correspondent for the Slovak newspaper Dennik N, told BBC News that “the current government coalition has painted targets on the heads of journalists, NGO members, etc.”

“I have information that some editorial offices in Slovakia are currently being monitored by the police,” he said.

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News Source : www.bbc.com

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