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Debunked: Hoax claim that wife of man who shot Slovakia PM Robert Fico is a Ukrainian refugee

The claim has circulated on social media in recent days.

For general Factchecks not about Covid

A VIRAL CLAIM has circulated online alleging that the wife of the man charged with shooting the Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico is a Ukrainian refugee.

However, Slovakian police have said that the claim is “definitely a hoax”. It is one of a number of false claims that have been shared about the incident since last week.

At the time of the claim, Fico was in a life-threatening condition in hospital after being shot multiple times in what political leaders across Europe condemned as a “shocking” attack on democracy.

His condition has since stabilised and he is said to be “clinically improving”.

Fico was elected to power in September last year as head of a three-party coalition on a pro-Russia platform.

Since his election, he has been described by Politico, as drawing the ire of EU officials for what is seen as his pro-Russia stance, as well as for planned changes to the national broadcaster and the activities of NGOs in Slovakia.

His election was a blow to the EU’s pro-Ukraine diplomacy, with Slovakia freezing military aid to the war-torn country following the vote.

The false claim about the assailant’s wife being a Ukrainian refugee appears to have leaned into his pro-Russia stance to undermine support for Ukraine in the war between the two countries.

It was first made by a pro-Russia account called @runews on X on 16 May, the day after the shooting.

The account has more than 300,000 followers and has a blue tick, meaning its posts feature more prominently on X than those of non-paying users, and it regularly posts pro-Kremlin talking points and misinformation about the war in Ukraine.

The relevant post read: “BREAKING: In Slovakia, the wife of #Cintula, who attempted on Fico’s life, has been arrested. She’s a REFUGEE from UKRAINE and incited her husband to seek revenge against the pro-Russian politician.”

The hashtag #Cintula refers to 71-year-old Juraj Cintula, a man identified by Slovakian media as being the alleged perpetrator in the attack on Fico.

He was charged on 16 May – the same day as the post on X – with attempted murder with premeditation in what Slovakian authorities called a politically motivated attack.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok later said that the perpetrator acted as a “lone wolf”.

The original post containing the false claim about Cintula’s wife remains live at the time of writing, and has been seen more than half a million times.

The claim has also been repeated by other accounts on X and re-shared on other platforms, including Facebook and the messaging app Telegram.

This is despite the allegation being debunked by Slovakian police on the same day that the claim was initially made.

During a press conference, which was translated into English by fact-checkers at Lead Stories, Slovakia’s police chief Ľubomír Solák said the claim was a “hoax”.

A journalist asked police about information “circulating on the Internet that the wife of the terrorist Jan Cintula has been arrested” and whether she “is a refugee from Ukraine”.

Solák responded: “It is definitely a hoax.”

The claim is one of several made about the shooting of Fico, both in Slovakia and across Europe, which attempt to tarnish the European Union, supporters of Ukraine and other targets of misinformation such as the World Health Organisation.

Slovakian fact-checkers have in recent days debunked claims that the assailant in the shooting is connected to a pro-EU party there called Progressive Slovakia.

Like the claim about Cintula’s wife, there is no evidence to back up any claims linking the shooter to a wider conspiracy to kill Fico.

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