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Updated May 16, 2024, 9:21am EDT
Europe
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Police charge suspect with attempted murder of Slovak PM

Insights from Euractiv, Politico, and VSquare

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Robert Fico
REUTERS/Nadja Wohlleben
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The News

Slovakian police charged a suspect with the attempted murder of Prime Minister Robert Fico after he was shot in the head and chest multiple times on Wednesday. He is now in a stable but serious condition, hospital officials said.

Slovakia’s interior minister told reporters it was a politically-motivated “lone wolf” attack by a man who was “dissatisfied” with the outcome of the presidential election last year that brought Fico back to power.

The assailant is believed to be a 71-year-old poet and former security guard, according to Slovakian media reports. The shooter planned the attack several days before carrying it out, one Slovak outlet reported.

Slovakia’s outgoing President Zuzana Caputova condemned the “brutal and reckless” attack, and President-elect Peter Pellegrini said he was “horrified by where the hatred towards another political opinion can lead,” adding, “an assassination attempt on one of the highest constitutional officials is an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy.”

Fico has served as Slovakia’s prime minister multiple times, before returning to power again last year after his populist party won the most seats in the September elections.

Fico has sparked criticism in the European Union for his pro-Russia comments and push to control the country’s media, Politico reported. He announced that Slovakia would stop military funding for Ukraine in January.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned the “appalling” attack on Fico and US President Joe Biden said he was “alarmed” at the situation and wished Fico a “swift recovery.”

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

EU has distanced itself from Fico’s Russia-friendly rhetoric

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Sources:  
Bloomberg, Euractiv

Fico’s “dramatic” shift to align his politics with that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has made Slovakia “one of the most pro-Russian countries in Europe,” Bloomberg wrote in March. He stopped military funding for Ukraine and has criticized EU allies for not working toward a peaceful solution to the Ukraine war. Domestically, Fico needs to keep up his “facade of skepticism” toward Ukraine, because he won by campaigning on censuring the previous government’s aid to Kyiv, Euractiv wrote. While Russia has praised Fico’s government for “having its own opinion about the situation in the world,” the EU has distanced itself from Slovakia: The Czech Republic in March canceled bilateral government consultations over foreign policy differences, and France excluded Slovakia from follow up talks on Ukraine peace.

Assassination attempt on Fico recalls high-profile murder of Slovak journalist

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Sources:  
Politico, RTV

Following the attack on Fico, some European journalists invoked the assassination of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, which sparked one of the largest political crises in the country’s history and led to Fico’s resignation in 2018. Shortly after resuming power last year, Fico said he wouldn’t do interviews with “unfriendly media,” Politico reported, including Aktuality.sk, the independent outlet that Kuciak worked for when he and his fiancée were murdered shortly before he was set to publish an investigation on corruption tying the Italian mafia to a close Fico aide. Kuciak’s murder led to the largest protests in Bratislava since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, and Fico ultimately resigned to keep the government coalition intact.

Fico was determined to return to power with a ‘vengeance’

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Sources:  
VSquare, Politico

Fico returned to power last year with a “vengeance” to purge those responsible for his 2018 ousting, journalist Tomáš Madleňák wrote for European political news site VSquare. Only two days into his term last year, Fico suspended several police investigators from the National Crime Agency and gutted the Special Prosecutor’s Office that was looking into the government’s corruption ties sparked by Kuciak’s investigation. Fico’s administration also passed new laws that reduced penalties for corruption crimes and slashed the statute of limitations for offenses including rape.

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