Alleged Gunman Charged With Slovak PM's Attempted Murder

(MENAFN- Jordan Times) BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia - Authorities charged an alleged gunman on Thursday with the attempted murder of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, saying the shooting was sparked by the election win last month of a Fico ally.

The premier's condition has stabilised but was still“very serious” a day after the violence that prompted deep worries of an escalation in the Politically polarised nation.

“This is a lone wolf whose actions were accelerated after the presidential elections since he was dissatisfied with its outcome,” Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said.

Slovak president-elect Peter Pellegrini, the Fico ally who won April's vote, earlier Thursday called for calm, urging political parties to halt campaigning for June's EU parliament election.

The leader of the biggest opposition party, centrist Progressive Slovakia, announced his grouping had already done so.

Slovakia's politics have been divided for years between pro-Europeans and nationalist-leaning camps, with the latest elections heavily influenced by disinformation and verbal attacks on social media.

Pellegrini, Fico's ally who will assume office in June, said Slovakia should avoid“further confrontation” in a joint statement with outgoing President Zuzana Caputova.

The two politicians represent rival political camps but Caputova said they wanted“to send a signal of understanding” as she urged an end to“the vicious circle of hatred”.

Surgeons spent hours in the operating theatre, battling to save the 59-year-old leader after the shooting, which happened on Wednesday afternoon as Fico spoke to members of the public after a meeting.

Deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak said doctors stabilised Fico's condition,“but unfortunately, his condition is still very serious as the injuries are complicated”.

Footage of events just after the shooting showed security agents grabbing a wounded Fico from the ground and hustling him into a black car. Other police handcuffed a man on the pavement nearby.

Fico, whose party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and political veteran accused of swaying his country's foreign policy in favour of the Kremlin.

Outside the hospital, shock mixed with outrage as residents of Banska Bystrica condemned the assault.

“I'm certainly afraid that such attacks will be repeated,” Nina Stevulova, a 18-year-old student, said.

“There's no need to do such things. Feel free to throw a tomato or an egg at him or scold him that 'You are a thief or a murderer',” Karol Reichl, a former professional driver, told AFP.

“But don't come with a gun and shoot,” the 69-year-old said.

Unprecedented attack

Media reported that the suspected gunman was a 71-year-old writer.

The alleged suspect's son told Slovak news site aktuality he had“absolutely no idea what father was thinking, what he was planning, why it happened”.

Political analyst Miroslav Radek said the attack risked causing“further radicalisation of individuals and politicians in Slovakia”.

“I am afraid that this attack may not have been the last,” Radek told AFP.

The shooting came just weeks ahead of June's European parliament elections in which far-right parties are expected to make gains.

In the central Slovak city of Levice, where the alleged gunman came from, engineer Jaroslav Pirozak told AFP he was sad for Fico.

“But at the same time, he's the one spreading hate and dividing the society, he's the one sowing hatred,” the 34-year-old said.

As well as his current stint as premier, Fico headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

He was forced to resign in 2018 after an investigative journalist's murder exposed high-level corruption and sparked anti-government sentiment.

But he came back again.

Since returning to office last October, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine after he questioned Ukraine's sovereignty.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine, invaded by Russia in 2022.

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public broadcasters.

At a press conference following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico's party lashed out against the prime minister's critics.

“You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred,” Blaha said.


Jordan Times

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