Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico has been shot multiple times and critically injured in a “politically motivated” assassination attempt, according to the interior minister.
Fico, 59, was shot by a gunman five times on Wednesday and underwent several hours of emergency surgery.
Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba told reporters he believed the operation had gone well. Taraba said one bullet went through Fico’s stomach and a second hit a joint.
Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said the prime minister was in a life-threatening condition.
He said the shooting was “politically motivated and the perpetrator’s decision was born closely after the presidential election,” referring to the election in April, which was won by a Fico ally.
Sutaj Estok said police have arrested a suspect and an initial investigation found “a clear political motivation” behind the assassination attempt. The suspect was a 71-year-old man, he said, confirming Slovak media reports that he was a writer.
The shooting in the central town of Handlova, 190km (118 miles) northeast of the capital Bratislava, stunned the central European nation and drew international condemnation.
The shooting took place after Fico left a government meeting. He was rushed to a hospital in the town and later taken by helicopter to Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment. President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the prime minister.
President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called the assassination attempt “an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy.”.
The country’s defence minister called the shooting a “political assault.”.
The attack comes three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections, in which populist and right-wing parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.
European leaders, from Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, expressed shock at the shooting. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also condemned the assault.
The Slovak government was meeting in Handlova as part of a tour of the country’s regions after coming to power late last year. Fico, a third-time premier, and his Direction party won Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-US message.

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