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Rescue workers wheel Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and injured, to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia. Alamy Stock Photo
Assassination Attempt

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico in life-threatening condition after being shot multiple times

Taoiseach Simon Harris condemned the “shocking and vile attack on democracy”.

LAST UPDATE | 15 May

SLOVAKIA’S PRIME MINISTER Robert Fico is in a life-threatening condition in hospital after being shot multiple times in what political leaders across Europe have condemned as a “shocking” attack on democracy.

The incident took place in the town of Handlova, some 150 kilometres north east of the capital Bratislava, according to the news television station TA3. 

A suspect has been detained, the station said.

“Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Robert Fico,” the government said in a post on social media.

“He is currently being transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica in a life-threatening condition, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute intervention”, it said.

Fico was shot multiple times, said a post on his official Facebook page.

“We confirm the attack on the prime minister,” police spokesman Matej Neumann told the AFP news agency.

Handlova local hospital director Marta Eckhardtova said: “Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic.”

She was unable to describe his injuries.

police-arrest-a-man-after-slovak-prime-minister-robert-fico-was-shot-and-injured-following-the-cabinets-away-from-home-session-in-the-town-of-handlova-slovakia-wednesday-may-15-2024-fico-is-in-l Police arrest a man after Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and injured. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier.

“I’m shocked,” 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 it until further notice, the Slovak TASR news agency said.

bodyguards-take-slovak-prime-minister-robert-fico-in-a-car-from-the-scene-after-he-was-shot-and-injured-following-the-cabinets-away-from-home-session-in-the-town-of-handlova-slovakia-wednesday-may Bodyguards bustle Fico into a car following the shooting. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The incident took place in front of the local House of Culture, where Fico came to meet with supporters. Police sealed off the scene.

A reporter for the daily newspaper Dennik N daily heard shooting and then saw rescuers carrying the premier to a car.

slovakias-prime-minister-robert-fico-centre-speaks-with-people-before-the-cabinets-away-from-home-session-in-the-town-of-handlova-slovakia-wednesday-may-15-2024-prime-minister-robert-fico-wa Fico, centre, speaks with people before the cabinet's away-from-home session in the town of Handlova earlier today. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

‘Vile attack’

Political figures across Europe have expressed shock at the news of the shooting and said their thoughts are with Fico and his family. 

Taoiseach Simon Harris has described the shooting as “a shocking and vile attack on democracy”.

Writing on X, he said his thoughts were with Prime Minister Fico, “our dear European colleague, his family and the people of Slovakia”.

“Keeping him in our prayers today,” he said.

In another statement, the Taoiseach said: “The attack on Prime Minister Fico is an attack on democracy, a fundamental value of the European union and one we all share.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin condemned the shooting as “an appalling attack on democracy” that has “shaken people across the European Union”. 

“Our thoughts and our prayers are with his family and with the Prime Minister, and we hope that he makes an early recovery,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins has also condemned the shooting. 

“As President of Ireland, I join with all those who have expressed concern and shock at the shooting of the Prime Minister of Slovakia Robert Fico.”

He said the “attempted assassination of a democratically elected head of government, following a government meeting, is deeply shocking and will be condemned by all of those who believe in democracy and the rule of law”.

“May I express my very best wishes and my hopes that Prime Minister Robert Fico makes a full recovery.

“To Prime Minister Fico, his family and colleagues and to the Slovakian people at this most difficult time, I send my expression of best wishes at getting past this terrible action,” he said. 

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a post on X condemning the “vile attack”. 

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family,” she said.

European Council President Charles Michel echoed von der Leyen’s remarks, saying he was “shocked” by the attack and that “Nothing can ever justify violence or such attacks”.

“I know Robert Fico to be a courageous and strong-spirited man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to withstand this difficult situation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin, that called the shooting a “heinous crime”.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he was “shocked to hear this awful news”.

“All our thoughts are with Prime Minister Fico and his family,” he wrote on X.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the attack as “cowardly” and said his thoughts were with Fico’s family, as did French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he was “shocked”. 

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also called the shooting a “cowardly attack” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described it as “appalling”.

“I was deeply shocked by the heinous attack against my friend, Prime Minister Robert Fico. We pray for his health and quick recovery! God bless him and his country!” said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

US President Joe Biden said he was alarmed. “We condemn this horrific act of violence,” he said in a statement.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also condemned the attack, along with the governments of Iran, Serbia, Spain and Austria.

KWRTNB Slovakian PM Robert Fico

A controversial figure

Fico was elected as prime minister in 2023 and has held the office twice previously, from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018. 

He founded the Direction – Social Democracy party in 1999 and is seen as a populist leftist politician. 

Recently, Fico has come into conflict with the European Union’s Human Rights Commissioner Michael O’Flaherty over his proposal to end the “era of NGO supremacy” and label such organisations as foreign agents. 

In late April of this year, his government approved a proposal to shut down the national broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) and replace it.

The move has been criticised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which said it would threaten editorial independence. 

“This appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to turn the Slovak public service broadcaster into state-controlled media,” EBU Director General Noel Curran said of the proposal back in March.

For a more in depth look at Robert Fico, read our explainer article here.

With reporting from Press Association and AFP.