What we know about Slovak PM assassination attempt

Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot several times by a gunman after a government meeting (-)
Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot several times by a gunman after a government meeting (-)

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico suffered life-threatening injuries when he was shot multiple times on Wednesday. Here is what we know about the incident:

What happened?

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, a 59-year-old four-time premier who came back to power after his Smer-SD party won a general election last year, chaired a government meeting in the central town of Handlova. Shots were fired after the meeting.

"There was an assassination attempt on Robert Fico. He was shot multiple times and is currently in a life-threatening condition," said a statement on Fico's official Facebook page.

Daniel Vrazda, a journalist with Dennik N newspaper who was covering the event, said he heard four shots and saw Fico on the ground and then being carried away.

Video footage obtained by AFPTV showed two guards carrying Fico by his arms while other guards opened the doors to a black Mercedes limousine that sped away.

Security personnel apprehended a man in jeans who was lying on the ground in handcuffs, the video showed.

Fico was later transported by a helicopter to hospital in Banska Bystrica.  Slovak public television RTVS showed images of a stretcher surrounded by security guards being wheeled into a hospital.

What was the official response?

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova expressed shock at the attack on her political opponent and spoke out against what she called a "brutal and reckless attack."

Fico's close ally, Peter Pellegrini, who is to succeed Caputova in June, has also condemned the "assassination attempt".

"I am horrified by where the hatred towards another political opinion can lead," Pellegrini said on X (formerly Twitter).

The parliament session in Bratislava was suspended following the attack and security measures have been bolstered.

The Slovak opposition called off a rally planned for Wednesday against government plans to reform the public broadcaster, which have been slammed by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) media watchdog.

Reactions from leaders

World leaders quickly condemned the 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, his family," said EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: "Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form, or sphere," said Zelensky.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the shooting a "heinous crime".

"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," Putin said in a statement.