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Slovakia PM Robert Fico in stable but serious condition after shooting, doctors say

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a stable but serious condition after being shot several times on Wednesday, according to doctors.

The hospital director said he was currently in an intensive care unit after five hours in surgery.

Earlier Mr Fico, 59, was said to have been fighting for his life after being gravely injured in an attack in the small town of Handlova.

A suspect was detained at the scene of the shooting.

Miriam Lapunikova, director of the F. D. Roosevelt University Hospital in Banska Bystrica, where Mr Fico was admitted, told a press conference that his condition “is truly very serious”.

Previously, Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC that Mr Fico’s surgery had gone “well” and “I guess that at the end he will survive”.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estoka described it as a politically motivated assassination attempt.

Mr Fico is a divisive figure at home – and controversial in the EU – for his calls to end military aid to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia.

But condemnation of the shooting has come from far and wide and it has been described as an attack on democracy.

Gunman fired at close range
The gunman was in a small crowd of Fico supporters who were gathered outside a cultural centre in Handlova, where the prime minister had been holding a meeting.

The shooting took Mr Fico’s security officers completely by surprise. Footage shows the prime minister after he was shot being carried by several officers, who bundle him into a car and drive him away from the scene.

The gunman fired five shots at close range and Mr Fico was hit in the stomach and in the arm.

He was rushed to hospital in an air ambulance and spent five hours in surgery, conducted by surgical and trauma teams, according to Ms Lapunikova.

Later on Wednesday, Mr Taraba told the BBC’s Newshour programme that Mr Fico was “not in [a] life-threatening situation at this moment”.

He added the prime minister was shot “from very close” and that “one bullet went through the stomach and the second one hit the joint”.

How Robert Fico rose to dominate Slovak politics
Police have not yet identified the alleged suspect. Unconfirmed local media reports say he was a 71-year-old writer and political activist.

A video being widely circulated on Slovak media purports to feature the suspect.

In the footage, the man says he disagrees with government policy and its stance towards state media. The BBC does not know if the person in the video is the perpetrator who was detained at the scene nor the circumstances under which it was filmed.

The shooting came on the day parliament began discussing the government’s proposal to abolish Slovakia’s public broadcaster RTVS.

Thousands of Slovaks have protested against the proposed reform of the public broadcaster in recent weeks. However, a planned opposition-led demonstration was called off on Wednesday as news of the shooting emerged.

In his interview with the BBC, Deputy Prime Minister Taraba blamed “false narratives” by opposition parties in Slovakia for the shooting.

“Our prime minister several times mentioned in the past that he was afraid that this would happen,” Mr Taraba said in another interview with the BBC’s World Tonight programme.

Parliament was sitting at the time of the attack and Slovak media reported that a party colleague of Mr Fico’s shouted at opposition MPs, accusing them of stoking the attack.

And Interior Minister Mr Estok accused the media of contributing to the climate that led to the 59-year-old’s shooting, telling a press conference: “Many of you were those who were sowing this hatred.”

Mr Estok added that he believed “this assassination [attempt] was politically motivated”.

Reacting to news of the attack, Slovakia’s outgoing President Zuzana Caputova said something “so serious had happened that we can’t even realise it yet”.

“The hateful rhetoric we witness in society leads to hateful acts,” she added.

Slovakia’s state security council is due to convene and the government will also meet on Thursday morning following the assassination attempt.

bbc

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