Slovakia PM ‘stable but still serious’ after second surgery in two days following assassination attempt

Deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak says Fico’s state is still ‘very serious’

Shahana Yasmin
Saturday 18 May 2024 15:06 BST
Slovakia’s PM Robert Fico rushed inside hospital after attempted assassination

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Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico had a second operation on Friday, two days after being shot multiple times in an assassination attempt.

Mr Fico, 59, was injured after five shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova where the leader was meeting with supporters.

Health minister Zuzana Dolinkova said two-hour surgery on Friday to remove dead tissue from multiple gunshot wounds “contributed to a positive prognosis” for Mr Fico. His condition was stable but serious on Saturday, Ms Dolinkova said as the man accused of trying to assassinate him faced his first court appearance.

“He had an almost two-hour-long operation,” said the deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak outside the hospital in Banska Bystrica where Mr Fico is being treated.

“His state is still very serious. I think it would take a couple of days to see the course of the development of his state.”

Mr Kalinak added that they would consider moving Mr Fico to the capital Bratislava only when there is further improvement in his condition.

Hospital director Miriam Lapunikova said Mr Fico was conscious and stable in the intensive unit after the surgery.

Slovak defence minister and deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak (C), flanked by director of the FD Roosevelt University Hospital Miriam Lapunikova (L), addresses the media outside the hospital
Slovak defence minister and deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak (C), flanked by director of the FD Roosevelt University Hospital Miriam Lapunikova (L), addresses the media outside the hospital (EPA)

Mr Kalinak, who also serves as defence minister, is currently standing in for Mr Fico during the prime minister’s absence.

A 71-year-old man named Juraj Cintula was arrested and charged with attempted murder for the attack. Unconfirmed media reports suggested he was a retiree who was known as an amateur poet, and may have previously worked as a security guard at a mall in the country’s southwest.

Prosecutors are seeking an order from Slovakia’s Specialized Criminal Court to detain the suspect.

Government authorities on Thursday described the suspect as a “lone wolf” who did not belong to any political groups, though they said the attack itself was politically motivated.

“This is a lone wolf whose actions were accelerated after the presidential election since he was dissatisfied with its outcome,” said interior minister Matus Sutaj Estok.

Markiza, a Slovak television station, showed footage of the suspect being taken to his home in the town of Levice on Friday morning, and reported that police had seized a computer and some documents.

Police did not comment due to a ban by prosecutors on publicising the suspect’s identity and other details about the case.

On Wednesday, after Mr Fico underwent five hours of surgery immediately after he was shot, deputy prime minister Tomas Taraba said: “Fortunately as far as I know the operation went well – and I guess in the end he will survive ... he’s not in a life-threatening situation at this moment.”

“He is able to speak but only a few sentences and then he is really tired because he is on some medication,” president-elect Peter Pellegrini said on Thursday.

Mr Pellegrini added that if the bullets struck just a few millimetres either side, Mr Fico would have been killed.

Mr Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform led to worries among fellow European Union and Nato members that he would abandon his country’s pro-Western course, particularly on Ukraine.

Mr Fico said last month on Facebook that he believed rising tensions in the country could lead to the murder of politicians, and he blamed the media for fuelling tensions.

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