In the central Slovak city of Handlová after a cabinet meeting several shots at the Slovak Head of government Robert Fico was fired. The 59-year-old suffered serious injuries but is in stable condition. According to the police, the suspected perpetrator has been arrested. An overview of the attack:

What happened in Handlová?

The Slovak cabinet met on Wednesday afternoon in the mining town of Handlová. The Prime Minister wanted to leave the House of Culture where the meeting was held Robert Fico around 2.30 pm welcome supporters and Shake hands with passers-by. Shots were fired at the politician. Local television RTV Prievidza published a video of the crime: You see a man pushing himself against the fence and shooting at the government’s head at close range. Companions brought the injured politician to safety in his company limousine. The alleged perpetrator was charged with first-degree murder and faces a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

What do we know about the background?

The Slovak government views the attack as an attack on democracy and the state. Interior Minister Matúš Šutaj-Eštok spoke of “a clear political motive” behind the attack. Defense Minister Robert Kaliňák also said there was no doubt that the attacker acted for political reasons.

According to Šutaj-Eštok, the alleged perpetrator is a “lone wolf”. “I can confirm that the suspect is not a member of any radicalized political group, neither right nor left,” he said. He was investigated for attempted murder.

How is Prime Minister Robert Fico’s health?

According to media reports, Fico was hit by five shots in the abdomen and left arm and was initially taken to the vascular surgery department of Handlová Hospital. Later he was flown by helicopter to the clinic in the nearby town of Banská Bystrica, because of the route to the capital Bratislava would have taken too long given the life-threatening injuries. After several hours of surgery, Fico regained consciousness in the morning hours, according to Slovak media. His health is stable, but his injuries are still considered “very serious,” Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kaliňák said. Fico’s deputy, Tomáš Taraba, had earlier told British broadcaster BBC that the operation had gone well and that Fico’s life was not in danger.

Slovak President-elect Peter Pellegrini later visited Fico in hospital. “His condition remains serious,” Pellegrini said. He could talk, but only a few sentences. “He is very exhausted.”

What is known about the suspected murderer?

According to Interior Minister Šutaj-Eštok, the suspected shooter is a 71-year-old writer from the city center Slovakia. Local media reported that he was a former employee of a private security agency. The man comes from the city of Levice, about 80 kilometers south of Handlová and about 150 kilometers east of Bratislava. He is also said to be the founder of a literature club there. According to reports, he is also a member of the official Slovak Writers’ Association.

Despite an information embargo, TV channel TA3 obtained a video recording of the police station. In it, the suspected attacker says: “I do not agree with government policy.” He mentioned the government’s plan as a concrete example Dissolution of the public radio and television RTVSwhich has been going on for weeks thousands of people demonstrating in Slovakia.

According to research by the AFP news agency, the man had previously published political statements on online networks several times. Eight years ago he wrote there that the world was ‘full of violence and weapons’ and that people ‘seemed to be going crazy’. He himself founded a “movement against violence”. The 71-year-old’s son told the Slovak news portal, his father legally owns a gun. Media reported that the suspected shooter’s wife was from the
Police was questioned.

How did members of the government react?

Interior Minister Šutaj-Eštok called for moderation after the attack. It is now the common task of everyone in Slovakia to immediately stop the spread of political hatred. President Zuzana Čaputová also spoke of an attack on democracy. “Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we have witnessed in society is fueling hateful actions. Please let’s stop this.” The liberal one Despite his great popularity, Čaputová did not run for a second termbecause, in its own words, it no longer has the strength after years of political crises and several changes of government.

Šutaj-Eštok announced increased police protection for politicians and journalists. He called on the media, politicians from all camps and the public to stop “inciting political opponents on social media.” Liberal opposition leader Michal Šimečka has indefinitely postponed all planned political actions. An anti-government demonstration in Bratislava, planned for the same evening, was also canceled. Parliament suspended its session until May 21. According to reports in the Slovak media, Fico’s deputy Robert Kaliňák will take over official duties until further notice.

What political views does Robert Fico represent?

Fico, 59, is a member of the social-democratic Smer party and has made the NATO member’s foreign policy more pro-Russian in recent years. In Europe, Fico is controversial for his often exaggerated formulations about the EU’s Ukraine and Russia policies. During the election campaign in the fall of 2023, Fico said he no longer wanted to supply “cartridges” of weapons to Ukraine. Since returning to government in October, Slovakia has supported all EU sanctions against Russia and also agreed to all EU aid to Ukraine. Fico has repeatedly criticized the fact that some sanctions against Russia are harming Slovakia, which is dependent on Russian gas, oil and uranium, more than Russia itself.

A confidant of Fico, the pro-government parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini, won the elections in early April Presidential elections in Slovakia. Against a plan by Fico Restructuring of the public broadcasting system has been demonstrated for months. A planned relaxation of anti-corruption laws is also being criticized. It also caused outrage Statements with which Fico questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty. The climate between the government and the opposition is considered toxic.

With material from the news agencies AFP, dpa and Reuters