Update given on health condition of Slovakia's PM - as suspect in court over attempted assassination

Slovakia's prime minister remains in a stable but serious condition as the man accused of attempting to assassinate him appeared in court for the first time.

Health minister Zuzana Dolinkova said a further two-hour surgery on Friday "contributed to a positive prognosis" for Robert Fico, 59, who was shot five times at point-blank range while greeting supporters in the former mining town of Handlova on Wednesday.

Defence minister Robert Kalinak said "several miracles" had happened in recent days at the hands of medical staff.

However, although awake at the hospital in Banska Bystrica, where Mr Fico was taken by helicopter after being shot, his condition still made it impossible to transport him to the capital Bratislava.

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Who is Robert Fico?

Deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak has said there was no need to formally take over Mr Fico's official duties.

The suspected gunman was tackled to the ground and arrested at the scene of the attack and the first assassination attempt of a European political leader in more than 20 years.

He has previously been named as 71-year-old Juraj Cintula, a former shopping centre security guard who also writes poetry.

The special criminal court in Pezinok, a small town outside the capital, Bratislava, was guarded by heavily armed officers wearing balaclavas for his court appearance.

News media were not allowed in for the hearing and reporters were kept behind a gate outside.

The suspect, who has been charged with attempted murder, is being held in custody.

Officers had taken the suspect to his home in the town of Levice on Friday and seized a computer and some documents, according to local media.

The attack sent shockwaves throughout Europe and raised concerns over the already polarised and febrile political situation in Slovakia.

Mr Fico has long been a divisive figure.

His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American ticket fuelled worries among fellow EU and NATO members over the country's direction.

Slovakia had previously been one of Ukraine's staunchest supporters, but on taking office Mr Fico halted arms supplies to the nation battling invading Russian forces.

Thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly rallied in the capital and around the country to protest against his policies.