Slovakian PM’s life ‘out of danger’ after shooting

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Slovak prime minister fighting for his life after shooting

By Malu Cursino
BBC News

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is no longer in a life-threatening condition after being shot several times, the deputy prime minister has said.

Tomas Taraba told the BBC Mr Fico’s surgery had gone “well” and “I guess that at the end he will survive”.

Earlier the defence minister said Mr Fico was “fighting for his life” after being gravely injured in an attack in the small town of Handlova.

A suspect was detained at the scene of the shooting.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estoka described it as a politically motivated assassination attempt.

Following the shooting, Mr Fico was rushed to hospital and spent several hours in surgery “fighting for his life”, according to Defence Minister Robert Kalinak, who spoke at a news conference from outside the hospital where Mr Fico was being treated on Wednesday.

There has been no official update on the prime minister’s condition since then, but his second-in-command has since told the BBC’s Newshour programme that Mr Fico was “not in [a] life-threatening situation at this moment”.

“As far as I know, the operation went well and I guess that at the end he will survive,” Mr Taraba said.

Mr Taraba added that the prime minister was shot “from very close” and that “one bullet went through the stomach and the second one hit the joint”.

Slovakia’s prime minister was airlifted to a hospital in Banska Bystrica and underwent several hours of surgery

Police have not yet identified the alleged suspect. Unconfirmed local media reports say he was a 71-year-old writer and political activist.

A video being widely circulated on Slovak media purports to feature the suspect.

In the footage, the man says he disagrees with government policy and its stance towards state media. The BBC does not know if the person in the video is the perpetrator who was detained at the scene nor the circumstances under which it was filmed.

The shooting came on the day parliament began discussing the government’s proposal to abolish Slovakia’s public broadcaster RTVS.

Thousands of Slovaks have protested against the proposed reform of the public broadcaster in recent weeks. However, a planned opposition-led demonstration was called off on Wednesday as news of the shooting emerged.

In his interview with the BBC, Deputy Prime Minister Taraba blamed “false narratives” by opposition parties in Slovakia for the shooting.

“Our prime minister several times mentioned in the past that he was afraid that this would happen,” Mr Taraba said in another interview with the BBC’s World Tonight programme.

According to him, Mr Fico had warned that the way in which “the government was attacked by false narratives can overheat the reaction of people and lead to something like this”.

Parliament was sitting at the time of the attack and Slovak media reported that a party colleague of Mr Fico’s shouted at opposition MPs, accusing them of stoking the attack.

And Interior Minister Mr Estok accused the media of contributing to the climate that led to the 59-year-old’s shooting, telling a press conference: “Many of you were those who were sowing this hatred.”

Mr Estok added that he believed “this assassination [attempt] was politically motivated”.

Reacting to news of the attack, Slovakia’s outgoing President Zuzana Caputova said something “so serious had happened that we can’t even realise it yet”.

“The hateful rhetoric we witness in society leads to hateful acts,” she added.

Mr Fico returned to power in Slovakia after elections last September, as the head of a populist-nationalist coalition. His first few months as prime minister have proved highly contentious politically. In January he halted military aid to Ukraine and last month pushed through plans to abolish RTVS.

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