Updated May 15th, 2024 at 23:20 IST

'Horrific Attack': Leaders Express Shock as Slovakian Prime Minister Fico Gets Injured in Shooting

Slovakian PM Robert Fico was shot after a government meeting in the town of Handlova on Wednesday. His condition, at present, is reportedly critical.

Slovakian PM Robert Fico was injured in a shooting attack on Wednesday. | Image:AP
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Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and wounded on Wednesday following a government meeting in the town of Handlova. Reuters quoted a witness as saying that several shots were fired during the incident. Police sealed off the scene even as Fico, 59, was rushed off to a nearby hospital to receive treatment where he is reportedly in a life-threatening condition. 

A suspect has been detained though there is no news, thus far, of possible motives and other factors that led to this shooting. Fico came to power last year for the fourth time with pro-Russia, anti-West populist messaging. 

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His policies, including a recent controversial move to overhaul Slovakia's public broadcast service, have seen thousands rallying in protest across the nation as critics claimed the change would allow the government to take control of the media.  

Indeed, Slovakia's main opposition parties, Progressive Slovakia and Freedom and Solidarity, had another major protest planned against the same overhaul which has now been called off after the shooting.  

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“We absolutely and strongly condemn violence and today's shooting of Premier Robert Fico. At the same time, we call on all politicians to refrain from any expressions and steps that could contribute to further increasing the tension," said Progress Slovakia leader Michal Simecka. 

Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova delivered a televised statement on the shooting, labelling it as an “attack on democracy”. 

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“A physical attack on the Prime Minister is, first of all, an attack on a person, but it is also an attack on democracy. Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we’ve been witnessing in society leads to hateful actions. Please, let’s stop it.”

Leaders condemn attack in strong terms 

Even as the Slovakian leader continues to receive treatment for his wounds, reactions have poured in from across Europe with leaders condemning the attack and wishing Fico a swift recovery. 

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg posted a statement on the social media platform X, stating that he was “shocked and appalled by the shooting.”

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the powerful European Commission said that she strongly condemns the attack and that such acts of violence “have no place in our society” and “undermine democracy.”

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola also swiftly reacted to the attack, condemning the violence on behalf of the Parliament and saying that her thoughts are “with him (Fico) and his family during this very difficult moment.”

Leaders from surrounding European nations also posted their reactions to the attack on social media, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban stating that he is “deeply shocked by the heinous attack against my friend.” 

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer similarly condemned the attack, saying that “hatred and violence must not take hold in our democracies.”

Polish PM Donald Tusk, also elected last year, directly addressed PM Fico in his tweet and said, "My thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment.”

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala similarly expressed that such acts of violence “must have no place in society” and wished Fico a speedy recovery. 

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, leader of neighbouring Ukraine, said in a statement, "Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on X that she condemned “the attack on cardinal principles of democracy and freedom” and that her thoughts were with Fico, his family and the Slovak people. 

According to a report by Reuters, Russian President Vladimir Putin put out a message to Fico following the attack which said- "There can be no justification for this monstrous crime. I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him survive this difficult situation. Please convey to him words of the most sincere support, as well as wishes for a speedy and complete recovery."

Across the Atlantic, US President Joe Biden also reacted to the shooting, with the White House putting out an official statement saying- “I am alarmed to hear reports of an attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.  Jill and I are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia. We condemn this horrific act of violence. Our embassy is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist.”

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Published May 15th, 2024 at 20:41 IST