Slovakian PM 'fighting for his life' after assassination attempt

Slovakia's prime minister remains in a very serious condition because of how "complicated" his gunshot injuries are, the country's defence minister says.

PM Robert Fico was shot several times in an attempted assassination yesterday.

Doctors spent the night "fighting for his life", defence minister Robert Kalinak said.

At least four shots were fired outside a cultural centre in the town of Handlova, around 85 miles northeast of the capital Bratislava, where the 59-year-old was meeting supporters, the government said.

A 71-year-old suspect is in custody, but the motive for the shooting is still unclear.

Who is Slovak prime minister Robert Fico?

A message posted to Mr Fico's Facebook account said he was taken to a hospital in Banska Bystrica, 17 miles from Handlova, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava.

The attack comes as political campaigning heats up three weeks ahead of Europe-wide elections to choose members for the European Parliament.

Mr Fico's return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American ticket led to worries among fellow EU and NATO members that he would turn his country further away from the Western mainstream.

Under his stewardship, the government has halted arms deliveries to Ukraine, and his opponents worry he will lead Slovakia in the footsteps of Viktor Orban's Hungary.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest against Mr Fico's policies.

Concern is mounting that populist and nationalists similar to Mr Fico could make gains in the 27-member bloc.

"A physical attack on the prime minister is, first of all, an attack on a person, but it is also an attack on democracy," outgoing president and political rival of Mr Fico, Zuzana Caputova, said in a statement.

"Any violence is unacceptable. The hateful rhetoric we've been witnessing in society leads to hateful actions. Please, let's stop it."

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of the new prime minister, called the shooting "an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy.

"If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardising everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovak sovereignty."

Joe Biden said he was alarmed, adding that the US "condemn this horrific act of violence".

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NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg posted on X that he was "shocked and appalled" by the attempt on Mr Fico's life.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called it a "vile attack".

Mr Fico, a third-time premier, and his left wing Smer, or Direction, party won Slovakia's parliamentary elections in September.

But politics have been put aside in the wake of the shooting, with Slovakia's parliament adjourned until further notice.