June 23rd, 2024

Slovak prime minister underwent another operation, remains in serious condition

By Petr David Josek, The Associated Press on May 17, 2024.

A man waves Slovakia's national flag outside the F. D. Roosevelt University Hospital, where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and wounded, is being treated, in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, Thursday, May 16, 2024. Fico, 59, was in serious but stable condition a day after being shot multiple times, a hospital official said. President-elect Peter Pellegrini said he spoke to Fico at the hospital and confirmed his condition “remains very serious.” (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) – Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent another operation after being shot in an assassination attempt earlier this week and and remains in serious condition, the country’s deputy prime minister and defense minister Robert Kalinak said.

Fico, 59, was shot multiple times on Wednesday while greeting supporters after a government meeting in the former coal mining town of Handlova, in an attack that has shocked the nation.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) – A man charged with attempting to assassinate Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was escorted by police to his home on Friday morning, with media saying that it was part of a search for evidence.

Fico, 59, was shot multiple times on Wednesday as he was greeting supporters after a government meeting in the former coal mining town of Handlova. Officials at first reported that doctors were fighting for his life, but after a five-hour operation described his situation as serious but stable.

The government said Friday that the prime minister remained in an intensive care unit of the University F.D Roosevelt hospital in Banska Bystrica, where he was taken by helicopter after he was shot.

Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform led to worries among fellow European Union and NATO members that he would abandon his country’s pro-Western course, particularly on Ukraine.

Markiza, a Slovak television station, showed footage of the suspect being taken to his home in the town of Levice on Friday morning, and reported that police had seized a computer and some documents. Police did not comment. Prosecutors have told police not to publicly identify the suspect and other details about the case.

Unconfirmed media reports suggested he was a 71-year-old retiree who was known as an amateur poet, and may have previously worked as a security guard at a mall in the country’s southwest.

Government authorities on Thursday gave details that matched that description. They described the suspect as a “lone wolf” who did not belong to any political groups, though he said the attack itself was politically motivated.

Slovakia’s presidential office said Friday that it was working to organize a meeting of leaders of all parliamentary parties for Tuesday. Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova announced the plan together with President-elect Peter Pellegrini, who succeeds her in mid June, in an attempt to reduce social tensions in the country.

At the start of Russia’s invasion, Slovakia was one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, but Fico halted arms deliveries to Ukraine when he returned to power, his fourth time serving as prime minister.

Fico’s government has also made efforts to overhaul public broadcasting – a move critics said would give the government full control of public television and radio. That, coupled with his plans to amend the penal code to eliminate a special anti-graft prosecutor, have led opponents to worry that Fico will lead Slovakia down a more autocratic path.

Thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly rallied in the capital and around the country of 5.4 million to protest his policies.

Fico said last month on Facebook that he believed rising tensions in the country could lead to the murder of politicians, and he blamed the media for fueling tensions.

Before Fico returned to power last year, many of his political and business associates were the focus of police investigations, and dozens have been charged.

His plan to overhaul of the penal system would eliminate the office of the special prosecutor that deals with organized crime, corruption and extremism.

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