/ 17 May 2024

Top man down in Slovakia

Robert Fico, Slovakian Prime Minister, just before the Commission and Council statements on the programme of the Slovak Presidency, at European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, on the 6th of July, 2016.
Robert Fico, Slovakian Prime Minister, just before the Commission and Council statements on the programme of the Slovak Presidency, at European Parliament, in Strasbourg, France, on the 6th of July, 2016.

The Squiz 

Robert Fico, PM of the central European nation of Slovakia, was badly injured in yesterday’s alleged assassination attempt, which saw him shot 5 times at close range in the small town of Handlova. The 59yo is in a stable but very serious condition after several hours of surgery for wounds to his stomach. Reports say a 71yo man (who has not yet been named) has been charged over the shooting – he’s a poet and political activist who was working as a security guard at a shopping centre. It’s the first attempted assassination of a serving European political leader since Serbia’s PM Zoran Djindjic was shot dead in 2003

I know nothing about Slovakia…

You’re not alone… It’s a country that rarely comes to international attention, so to give you a snapshot, it’s a nation of 5 million people and shares a border with Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, and Ukraine. As for Fico, he is a pro-Russian/anti-American populist who returned to power last year and immediately ended Slovakia’s military support for Ukraine, prompting widespread protests. It wasn’t the first time he’s clashed with his own people… Fico’s been the on/off leader since 2006, and in 2018, he was forced to resign after a journalist investigating corruption and his fiance were killed. He’s also a former Communist with anti-LGBT/anti-free press views and a critic of the European Union, putting him at odds with much of the continent.

Was the shooter politically motivated?

Reports say that just before he opened fire, the shooter said he disagreed with Fico’s efforts to take away the independence of the nation’s public broadcaster by turning it into a state-run media outlet. That’s backed up by Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok who says eyewitness accounts “clearly point to political motivation”. World leaders have been quick to condemn the shooting, with US President Joe Biden calling it a “horrific act of violence” while Russian President Vladimir Putin called it a “monstrous crime”. The incident has put much of Europe on edge over fears that increasingly polarised political views in several countries and the rise of the far right could escalate into further violence.

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