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Slovak Prime Minister Victim of Attempted Assassination

May 16—Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was placed in an induced coma following some four hours of emergency surgery after he was shot five times May 15 by a single assailant in the town of Handlova, about 85 miles east of the capital Bratislava. Fico’s condition now depends on the ability of his body to cope with injuries, as he did not suffer critical blood loss, reported Sputnik, citing Slovakia’s TA3 TV channel.

A suspect was in custody, and an initial investigation found “a clear political motivation” behind the assassination attempt, Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said as he briefed reporters alongside Defense Minister Robert Kalina outside the hospital in Banská Bystrica, where Fico was flown by helicopter for treatment. “My task as the Minister of the Interior is to ensure that this assassination attempt, not only against the Prime Minister, but also against the entire democratic system is thoroughly investigated as soon as possible. The task of the [Slovak] security agencies is to ensure the safety of all representatives of the state,” he said. Estok further warned that the country was “on the verge of civil war” due to political tension. “Such hateful comments are being made on social networks today, so please, let’s stop this immediately,” he said.

The shooter has been identified in media reports as Juraj Centula, a 71-year old writer and founder of a literary club. “I don’t agree with the government’s policy,” he is reported to have said upon being taken into custody.

Reactions of shock came from capitals all over Europe and elsewhere. Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote a letter to Slovak President Zuzana Caputova, stating: “There can be no justification for this monstrous crime. I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to survive this difficult situation. I kindly request to convey to Prime Minister Fico the sincerest words of support, as well as wishes for a swift and full recovery,” he said.

U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the shooting as a “horrific act of violence”, adding that he and First Lady Jill Biden “are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia.” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wrote on X that he was “shocked to hear this awful news. All our thoughts are with Prime Minister Fico and his family.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte wrote on X that he was shocked by the shooting of “my longtime colleague Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia.” He wished Fico much strength. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote: “Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

As for possible motivations behind the shooting of Fico, there’s no shortage of speculation. Many news reports call attention to Fico’s turning Slovakia away from NATO’s war on Russia via Ukraine, which neighbors Slovakia. He reversed the previous government’s policy of emptying Slovakia’s armories to send weapons and munitions to Ukraine. “It is better to negotiate peace for 10 years and stop military operations than to let the Ukrainians and Russians kill each other for another 10 years without results,” he stated after winning election in October 2023. AP tendentiously described Fico as a long-time “divisive figure” in Slovak politics “and beyond, but his return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American message led to even greater worries among fellow European Union members that he would lead his country further from the Western mainstream.”

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