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Slovakian PM Robert Fico shot five times in assassination attempt

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot five times in an assassination attempt Wednesday and underwent more than three hours of surgery. A suspect is in custody. Photo by Jakub Gavlak/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot five times in an assassination attempt Wednesday and underwent more than three hours of surgery. A suspect is in custody. Photo by Jakub Gavlak/EPA-EFE

May 15 (UPI) -- Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot five times in an assassination attempt Wednesday that officials called "politically motivated." He underwent more than three hours of surgery and is expected to recover, according to officials. A suspect in the shooting is in custody.

"I guess in the end he will survive," Slovakia's Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC, saying the surgery had gone well. "He's not in a life threatening situation at this moment."

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Slovakia's Interior Minister MatĂș? ?utaj E?tok said Fico was reportedly hit in the stomach, the arm and the leg.

The attack happened following a government meeting in the central Slovakian town of Handlova.

A statement on Fico's official Facebook account said the prime minister was transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica for medical treatment "because it would take too long" to return him to the capital of Bratislava.

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A woman who witnessed the shooting, cited by local news outlet MNT.SK, said she heard three or four shots and watched Fico fall to the ground.

Fico had made pro-Russian statements and moved to tighten state control over news media after he was elected in September.

Reaction poured in from Slovakia and world leaders, including President Joe Biden.

"I am alarmed to hear reports of an attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico," Biden said in a statement Wednesday.

"Jill and I are praying for a swift recovery, and our thoughts are with his family and the people of Slovakia. We condemn this horrific act of violence," the president added. "Our embassy is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist."

In a post on X, opposition leader Michal Simecka said he was "shocked and appalled" by the shooting.

"We unequivocally and strongly condemn any violence. We trust that Prime Minister Fico will be fine and that this terrible act will be brought to light as soon as possible," Simecka said.

Former Slovak President Zuzana Caputova also said on X that she was "utterly shocked by today's brutal attack on Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico, which I condemn in the strongest possible terms."

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European Union President Ursula von der Leyen added that she also "strongly" condemned "the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico.

"Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico, his family," she said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on X, he was "horrified and outraged at the attack on the Slovak Prime Minister. Spain stands with Robert Fico, his family and the Slovak people at this extremely difficult time."

E?tok called Wednesday's assassination attempt "politically motivated" as it took place after the presidential election amid rising political divisions and hate speech.

"Initial information clearly points to political motivation," E?tok told reporters, who he blamed Wednesday for contributing to the divided climate that led to the shooting.

"Many of you were those who were sowing this hatred," E?tok said.

Fico has faced accusations of corruption, which he has denied, as well as criticism for saying he would not arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin under an existing international criminal warrant if Putin visited Slovakia.

He is serving his third term as Slovakian Prime Minister after he resigned in 2018 following widespread outrage over the murder of a Slovakia journalist who was investigating organized crime links with government officials.

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Fico's pro-Russia Smer-SSD party won the biggest share of parliament seats in Slovakia's October 2023 election.

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