Berliner Boersenzeitung - Slovak PM 'able to speak' after shooting, suspected gunman charged

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Slovak PM 'able to speak' after shooting, suspected gunman charged
Slovak PM 'able to speak' after shooting, suspected gunman charged / Photo: - - AFP

Slovak PM 'able to speak' after shooting, suspected gunman charged

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is able to speak Thursday but is still in a "difficult condition" a day after his shooting, officials said, as police charged a suspect in the attack they said was politically motivated.

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President-elect Peter Pellegrini briefed journalists a day after the shooting, which has prompted concern of further violence in the politically polarised nation just weeks before European parliament elections.

"He is able to speak but only a few sentences and then he is really, really tired... The situation is very critical," Pellegrini said outside the hospital in the central town of Banska Bystrica.

"The doctors asked me to make a really very short visit...," he stressed. "I told him that we stand behind him."

But he added that "very difficult hours and days" lay ahead for Fico.

Wednesday's shooting has sparked fears for the future in the already deeply polarised nation, as officials drew a link between the political situation and the suspect's motives.

Police charged the suspect in his shooting with attempted murder Thursday.

And Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said of the suspect: "This is a lone wolf whose actions were accelerated after the presidential elections since he was dissatisfied with its outcome."

President-elect Pellegrini, who won last month's vote, is a political ally of Fico.

- 'Circle of hatred' -

Pellegrini called for calm and urged political parties to halt campaigning for June's EU parliament election.

The biggest opposition party, centrist Progressive Slovakia, announced that it had already done so, and several other parties followed suit.

Slovakia's political scene has been divided for years between pro-Europeans and nationalist-leaning camps.

Disinformation and verbal attacks on social media featured heavily during the latest election campaign.

Pellegrini, who takes office in June, said in a joint statement with outgoing President Zuzana Caputova that Slovakia should avoid "further confrontation".

The two politicians represent rival political camps but Caputova said they wanted "to send a signal of understanding" as she urged an end to "the vicious circle of hatred".

Surgeons spent hours in the operating theatre, battling to save the 59-year-old leader's life after Wednesday's shooting, which happened as Fico was speaking to members of the public after a meeting.

Deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak said doctors had stabilised Fico's condition but said it "is still very serious as the injuries are complicated".

Footage just after the shooting showed security agents grabbing a wounded Fico from the ground and bundling him into a car, while other officers handcuffed a man on the pavement.

Fico, whose party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and political veteran accused of swaying his country's foreign policy in favour of the Kremlin.

- Unprecedented attack -

Outside the hospital, shock mixed with outrage as residents of Banska Bystrica condemned the assault.

"I'm certainly afraid that such attacks will be repeated," Nina Stevulova, a 18-year-old student, said.

"There's no need to do such things. Feel free to throw a tomato or an egg at him or scold him that 'You are a thief or a murderer'," Karol Reichl, a former professional driver, told AFP.

"But don't come with a gun and shoot," the 69-year-old said.

Media reported that the suspected gunman was a 71-year-old writer.

Political analyst Miroslav Radek said the attack risked causing "further radicalisation of individuals and politicians in Slovakia".

"I am afraid that this attack may not have been the last," Radek told AFP.

The shooting came ahead of June's European parliament elections in which far-right parties are expected to make gains.

- Ukraine weapons -

Fico also headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

He was forced to resign in 2018 after an investigative journalist's murder exposed high-level corruption and sparked anti-government sentiment.

Since returning to office, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine after he questioned Ukraine's sovereignty.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine, invaded by Russia in 2022.

Following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico's party lashed out against the prime minister's critics.

"You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred," Blaha said.

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(H.Schneide--BBZ)