Slovakia PM: Who is Robert Fico, the pro-Russian Slovakian prime minister shot in street in assassination attempt?

Robert Fico was taken to hospital by helicopter

Slovakia’s populist prime minister Robert Fico has suffered life-threatening injuries after being shot in the stomach in an “assassination attempt” as he spoke to supporters in a small town.

Mr Fico, founder of party Smer, who has held the post of prime minister for three separate terms, was attacked on Wednesday as he mingled with members of the public after attending a government meeting.

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He was said to be conscious when he was rushed to hospital in a helicopter following the attack in the mining town of Handlova, some 93 miles north-east of the capital Bratislava. He is said to have been hit in the abdomen in the attack.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot in the street in an assassination attempt.Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot in the street in an assassination attempt.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot in the street in an assassination attempt.

The Slovak interior ministry described the incident as an “assassination attempt”. The shooter has been detained, local media reports claimed. Photographs taken at the scene showed a person wearing blue jeans and a light-coloured shirt being held down by police.

The incident took place in front of the local House of Culture, where Mr Fico had been to meet with supporters after a government meeting nearby. Police sealed off the scene.

President Zuzana Caputova condemned the incident as “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier. “I’m shocked,” Ms Caputova said. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack.”

Deputy speaker of parliament Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of Parliament and adjourned the session until further notice.

Eyewitnesses who were speaking to Mr Fico as he was shot told local news outlet Diary N the politician had fallen to the floor in front of them.

"I was just going to shake his hand," said one. "When the shots rang out, I almost became deaf," said the other, who did not want to give her name. She heard three or four shots.

Mr Fico holds the record as the country’s longest-serving prime minister, having held the role previously from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018.

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Mr Fico and his leftist Smer, or Direction, party, won Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

Critics worried Slovakia under Mr Fico would abandon the country’s pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist prime minister Viktor Orban.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest over Mr Fico’s policies. He stated during his campaign that, if elected, he would withdraw all support for Ukraine. It was a clear U-turn from Slovakia’s previous stance under his predecessor, when it was the first country to deliver fighter jets to the conflict-hit nation.

Mr Fico is being airlifted to Banska Bystrica Hospital, the Slovakian government said, as transport to the capital of Bratislava would take "too long". Earlier, a spokeswoman for Handlova Hospital, where Mr Fico received initial treatment for gunshot wounds, said he had been stabilised.