Slovakian prime minister in recovery after surviving assassination attempt

 May 28, 2024

The prime minister of Slovakia is getting better after surviving an assassination attempt just weeks before European Union elections.

Prime minister Robert Fico is in recovery at a hospital near the town of Handlova, where he was attacked by a 71-year-old gunman on May 15.

Doctors at F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital in Banská Bystric said that Fico's condition has improved since the attack.

“Based on the examination results, today’s medical board meeting confirmed the gradual improvement of the Prime Minister’s health condition,” the hospital said.

European leader survives assassination

The attack jolted European politics only weeks before European Union (EU) parliamentary elections. Slovakia also held presidential elections in the spring.

Politics in Slovakia is deeply polarized between supporters of Ukraine and Russia. Fico has stirred controversy by cutting off all aid to Ukraine, which borders Slovakia to the east, and taking certain steps that some view as autocratic and hostile to freedom of the press.

Fico was shot multiple times while greeting supporters in Handlova, a small town in central Slovakia 85 miles from the capital Bratislava.

He has yet to return to the capital, having been rushed to a hospital 17 miles from the scene of the attack, where doctors immediately began life-saving surgeries.

The attacker, 71-year-old Juraj C., was initially described as a lone wolf, but the government has said it is possible others were involved.

Tensions explode in Central Europe

Fico's allies have blamed the media in Slovakia for fanning tensions with hostile coverage of the government.

“I can confirm to you that the reason it was a politically motivated, attempted premeditated murder is as the suspect himself said: the media information that he had at his disposal,” Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told reporters. “I think each of you can reflect on the way you presented it.”

Fico has sometimes been compared with Viktor Orban, the populist leader of neighboring Hungary. Like Orban, Fico has been characterized by opponents as an aspiring autocrat who is friendly with Russia.

Fico is the founder of a left-populist political party, Direction-Social Democracy. Despite his affiliation with the left, Fico has opposed plans to settle migrants in Slovakia, a small, mountainous Central European country of 5.4 million.

He is the longest serving prime minister in the history of the Slovak Republic, having previously served from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018 before his current term began in 2023.

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