Attempted mass murder in Slovakia

The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, was last night in a critical condition after being extremely seriously wounded by shots from an assailant who was arrested at the scene, in the town of Handlová, in about 150 kilometers northeast of the capital, Bratislava.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
15 May 2024 Wednesday 11:13
5 Reads
Attempted mass murder in Slovakia

The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, was last night in a critical condition after being extremely seriously wounded by shots from an assailant who was arrested at the scene, in the town of Handlová, in about 150 kilometers northeast of the capital, Bratislava.

The prime minister "has received multiple shots and his life is currently in danger", the Slovak Government reported, and specified that he was transferred by helicopter to the town of Banska Bystrica, about 65 kilometers away. He suffered injuries to his abdomen, legs and arms, according to the Slovak newspaper

The assailant, a 71-year-old man originally from the city of Levice, shot the politician at gunpoint in front of the House of Culture in Handlová, where Fico had met with members of his coalition Government. The president was greeting a small group of citizens outside, one of them holding an anti-government banner, when several shots were fired. The Prime Minister was hit by the blast and fell to the ground, and immediately afterwards his security team rushed him into a vehicle. The area was evacuated and cordoned off.

Robert Fico, a populist social democrat, has been a dominant political figure in this Central European country of 5.4 million inhabitants for the past twenty years. He returned to power after winning the elections in October, after having previously governed for two periods (2006-2010 and 2012-2018), during which he gradually became more anti-Western and pro-Russian. Its current coalition government has aligned Slovakia with neighboring Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán maintains constant tension with Brussels over rule of law fights and leans towards Moscow rather than Kyiv .

According to local television Markiza, the alleged author of the shots is Juraj Cintula, author of poetry books and former employee of a private security company, who regularly criticizes Fico on his political blog. His son has confirmed that he has a gun license and denied rumors suggesting that Cintula was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Their motivations are being investigated.

The outgoing President of the Republic, Zuzana Caputová, condemned the attack: "I am shocked. I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength at this critical moment to recover from this brutal and irresponsible attack." Caputová, a liberal and environmentalist, gave up running for a second term in the presidential elections in April due to the harsh verbal attacks of Robert Fico. His term as head of state ends on June 15. The winner of those elections and, therefore, elected president, Peter Pellegrini, whose party is part of Fico's Government coalition, said that "an assassination attempt on one of the highest constitutional officials is a unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy".

After the attack, the Government parties accused the opposition of exacerbating the division in the country. The Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Lubos Blaha, confirmed the shooting and postponed the parliamentary session until further notice. "This is your fault," said Blaha, a member of Smer-SSD, Fico's party, to the opposition MPs, who responded with shouts and boos, according to the Slovak news agency TASR. The far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) accused "the opposition of hatred" of having "blood on their hands".

Fico's coalition government is formed by his social democratic party Smer-SSD, and two partners: Hlas – a nominally social democratic Smer split, but more centrist and liberal – and the ultra-nationalist SNS.

This Executive has cut off the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, dismantled one of the anti-corruption agencies and announced a plan to reform public radio and television which, according to its detractors, seeks to tighten control over the public media.

The European leaders condemned, dismayed, the assassination attempt on the Slovak prime minister. "These acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good", published the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on the social network X, a few weeks before the European elections of June 9.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to President Caputová saying "this is a horrible crime that cannot have any justification", and praised Fico as "a brave person and a man with a strong personality". .