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Slovak PM's life no longer in danger after shooting

By AFP

May 19, 2024 04:58 PM


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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's life is no longer in danger following an assassination attempt, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said on Sunday.

A lone gunman, who appeared in court Saturday, shot Fico four times and he was at one stage said to be fighting for his life.

"He has emerged from the immediate threat to his life, but his condition remains serious and he requires intensive care," Kalinak, Fico's closest political ally, told reporters.

The Slovak premier was shot as he was greeting supporters after a government meeting in the central town of Handlova. He underwent a five-hour operation on Wednesday and another on Friday at a hospital in the central city of Banska Bystrica.

"We can consider his condition stable with a positive prognosis," Kalinak said outside the hospital, adding, "We all feel a bit more relaxed now."

Kalinak added that Fico would stay at Banska Bystrica for the moment.

The suspected gunman, identified by Slovak media as 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder and was ordered held in custody at a hearing on Saturday.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said that if one of the shots "went just a few centimeters higher, it would have hit the prime minister's liver".

  Deep divisions  

The attempted assassination has highlighted acute political divisions in the country where  59-year-old Fico took office in October after his centrist populist Smer party won a general election.

He is serving his fourth term as prime minister after campaigning on proposals for peace between Russia and Slovakia's neighbor Ukraine, and to halt military aid to Kyiv, which his government has done.

Fico leads a coalition comprising his Smer party, the centrist HLAS, and the small nationalist SNS party.

Kalinak said the government would carry on without Fico "according to the program he has outlined".

Slovakia was already sharply divided over politics since the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

Kuciak pointed at links between Italian mafia and Fico's then-government, and his murder sparked nationwide protests that resulted in Fico's resignation in 2018.

The divisions deepened further with the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Following the attack on Fico, outgoing President Zuzana Caputova and her successor Peter Pellegrini, a Fico ally who took over in June, tried to quell the tensions.

Following a proposal by Caputova and Pellegrini, several parties have suspended campaigning for European Parliament elections scheduled for June.

But some politicians have been quick to blame the Fico attack on their opponents or media.

SNS chairman Andrej Danko blamed the media just after the shooting, and Kalinak took on the opposition and media in an emotional speech on the Smer website on Friday.

Pellegrini said Sunday that a meeting of parliamentary party leaders he was planning to host on Tuesday to help ease tensions would probably not happen.

"The past few days and some press conferences have shown us that some politicians are simply not capable of fundamental self-reflection even after such a huge tragedy," said Pellegrini.

"It has turned out that the time is not ripe for a round table with the representatives of all parliamentary parties yet," he added.

In a debate on the TA3 news channel, Danko said it was "false to say that a meeting on Tuesday would reconcile society".

Police have meanwhile charged several people who had approved of the attack on Fico on social media.


AFP


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