Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico in Life-Threatening Condition After Shooting

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico in Life-Threatening Condition After Shooting
Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting after a political event Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile.

The 59-year-old populist, pro-Russian leader was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 150 km (93 miles) northeast of the capital Bratislava where he was meeting supporters. A suspect has been detained.

Fico's Facebook account said he "has been shot multiple times and is currently in life-threatening condition." He was being airlifted to a hospital in Banská Bystrica as it was quicker than going to Bratislava due to needing urgent surgery. "The next few hours will decide," the post stated.

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called it "an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy" if political disagreements are expressed "with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations."

There was shock across Europe at the apparent assassination attempt in the NATO state, though no motive is yet known. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the "shocking and appalling" shooting.

The incident comes three weeks before European Parliament elections where populist parties could make gains. Slovakia's opposition cancelled protests against Fico's plan to increase government control over public broadcasting.

President Zuzana Caputova wished Fico strength, calling it "a brutal and ruthless" attack. Fico's Smer party won last September on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform, worrying critics Slovakia could abandon its pro-Western orientation.

European leaders like EU President Ursula von der Leyen and Czech PM Petr Fiala strongly condemned the political violence, with von der Leyen saying it "undermines democracy."

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