Leader's Condition Improves After Second Surgery

Suspect in shooting of Robert Fico is ordered held until his trial
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2024 11:49 AM CDT
Updated May 18, 2024 4:45 PM CDT
After Assassination Attempt, Fears Rise in Europe
A file photo of Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico.   (AP Photo/Denes Erdos, File)
UPDATE May 18, 2024 4:45 PM CDT

After undergoing more surgery, Prime Minister Robert Fico is improving, Slovakia's deputy minister said Saturday. "Several miracles happened," Robert Kalinak told reporters in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica where Fico was taken after an assassination attempt Wednesday. "He is conscious, with all the limitations of this serious injury." Also Saturday, the suspect in Fico's shooting appeared before a judge and was ordered to remain in custody until his trial, the New York Times reports.

May 16, 2024 11:49 AM CDT

A "lone wolf" suspect has been charged in the attempted assassination of Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot five times at close range at an event Wednesday. The suspect isn't a member of an extremist group, but police said he told them that he disagreed with government reforms, making this a politically motivated crime, said Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok, per CNN.

  • Suspect: He's identified by local media as 71-year-old writer and poet Juraj Cintula from the country's south. He had a gun license and formerly worked as a security guard, per Euronews.
  • Motive: He disagreed with "the decision to abolish the special prosecutor's office, the decision to stop supplying military assistance to Ukraine, the reform of public service broadcaster [RTVS], and the dismissal of the judicial council head," Sutaj-Estok said, per CNN. Such policy decisions spurred anti-government protests, which Cintula reportedly attended.

  • Fico's condition: Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak said Fico's condition stabilized overnight following five hours or surgery, but "the situation is really serious." Fico was hit in the stomach and arm, per the BBC, and he is "not out of a life-threatening situation," says Kalinak.
  • His role: As PM, Fico is "the decision-making head of government" in Slovakia, where the president's "role is more ceremonial and has limited scope," CNN reports. Fico served as PM from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018 before returning to power in September.
  • His politics: The combative Fico campaigned "on a pro-Russian, anti-American message," per the AP. A frequent critic of the European Union, he has verbally attacked the LGBTQ+ community and vowed to curb immigration. NBC News notes the 59-year-old has "long been a divisive but dominant figure" in his nation. He is "widely loathed by Bratislava liberals but popular outside the capital," per the New York Times.
  • Blame: Some of Fico's allies have blamed the "liberal media" for spreading "hatred" against Fico, per Euronews. They also accused his political opponents of having "blood on their hands." But outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, a political rival, said Thursday that "the tense atmosphere of hatred was our collective work." She appeared alongside President-elect Peter Pellegrini, a Fico ally, in a show of unity.
  • Division: Pellegrini referenced rising political division and called on parties to scale back campaigns for next month's European Parliament elections. As the Times puts it, the "attempted assassination stoked fears that Europe's increasingly polarized and venomous political debates had tipped into violence." Slovakia's main opposition party canceled a protest and called for efforts to defuse the tension in response.
(More Slovakia stories.)

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