The pro-Putin prime minister of Slovakia is recovering in hospital after being shot in an assassination bid that triggered alarm bells across Europe.

Robert Fico was beckoned over to meet a crowd of supporters before a gunman leaned across and fired five times at point-blank range, sending the divisive politician sprawling to the ground.

Bodyguards pounced on the would-be assassin as Mr Fico was carried into a government limousine which sped away before he was airlifted to hospital.

Overnight there was confusion over the premier’s condition, with deputy prime minister Tomas Taraba telling the BBC on Wednesday evening he was confident Mr Fico ‘will survive’, with local news outlets reporting that he was out of surgery and stable.

Other ministers, however, insisted throughout the night that Mr Fico remained in a critical condition.

Police detained 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula on suspicion of the shooting in Handlova, central Slovakia.

Graphic depicting the days events following the shooting of Slovakian PM Robert Fico

Graphic depicting the days events following the shooting of Slovakian PM Robert Fico

Robert Fico was beckoned over to meet a crowd of supporters before a gunman leaned across and fired five times at point-blank range, sending the divisive politician sprawling to the ground

Robert Fico was beckoned over to meet a crowd of supporters before a gunman leaned across and fired five times at point-blank range, sending the divisive politician sprawling to the ground

Bodyguards pounced on the would-be assassin as Mr Fico was carried into a government limousine which sped away before he was airlifted to hospital

Bodyguards pounced on the would-be assassin as Mr Fico was carried into a government limousine which sped away before he was airlifted to hospital

Vladimir Putin last night described the attack as a ‘monstrous crime’ and there are fears he will now seize on the attempted killing of his populist friend who has staunchly argued against support for Ukraine. It comes as:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cancelled trips abroad as Russia advances on the country’s second city of Kharkiv;
  • Tens of thousands took to the streets of Georgia once more after the ‘pro-Russian’ government forced through ‘Kremlin inspired’ legislation;
  • The alleged gunman made a ‘confession’ in custody where he blamed Mr Fico’s crackdown on free media for the attack;
  • World leaders including Joe Biden were quick to condemn the shooting.

Russian president Mr Putin – who arrived in Beijing for a state visit last night – said: ‘I know Robert Fico to be a courageous and strong-spirited man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to withstand this difficult situation.’

71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula is believed to be the shooter

See also  Harry Kane's three children had a 'very lucky escape' from horror car smash that saw the air ambulance scrambled amid fears of 'serious injuries', fire chief reveals: England captain says his family are 'fine' after car ploughed into van carrying them

71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula is believed to be the shooter 

His condition was critical following surgery last night as police said they had detained 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula on suspicion of the shooting in Handlova, central Slovakia

His condition was critical following surgery last night as police said they had detained 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula on suspicion of the shooting in Handlova, central Slovakia

Last night Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, the UK’s chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defence unit, told The Mail: ‘There are high stakes in Europe and the threat of a wider war only benefits Putin.

Populist anti-vaxxer who backs Putin 

Robert Fico was serving his third stint as prime minister of Slovakia.

He won his first election in 2006 in a landslide victory just two years after the country joined the EU. Born into a working-class familiy, Mr Fico trained as a lawyer and was Slovakia’s representative to the European Court of Human Rights.

He won the elections again in 2012 and 2016 but was forced to resign two years later due to mass protests after an investigative journalist was murdered along with his fiancee.

Mr Fico began his third term as prime minister last October, serving at the head of a populist-nationalist coalition.

Critics argue that he has abandoned Slovakia’s pro-Western course. Thousands of people have protested across the country, speaking out against his policies. He has also faced accusations of corruption.

He is fiercely opposed to immigration and has criticised same-sex marriages. He became the country’s most prominent voice against masks, lockdowns and vaccinations during the Covid pandemic. He is also an admirer of Vladimir Putin and has vowed not to support Ukraine.

‘This is yet another wake-up call to the West. If we ignore this latest threat to Western security the chances of getting drawn into a wider war in Europe are manifestly greater.’

Witnesses said Mr Fico responded to a supporter shouting ‘Robo, come over’ and went to shake their hand after leaving an away-day meeting of the Slovak government meeting shortly after 3pm. Harrowing footage then shows the alleged gunman look either side before lunging forward with a pistol in his right arm and shooting the 59-year-old prime minister.

See also  Devon dirty water crisis could go on for 10 days: School forced to shut, families warned to boil water and panic buying hits supermarkets as hundreds fall ill with vomiting and diarrhoea amid parasite outbreak in contaminated pipes

A shaken bystander said: ‘I was just going to shake his hand, when the shots rang out it almost deafened me’.

Local journalists interviewed the suspect’s son who witnessed the attack and was in shock. ‘I have no idea what father was up to, what he was planning and why it happened,’ he said.

The son said Cintula was not suffering from any mental health problems and had never mentioned assassinating a politician. However, the background of the alleged gunman provoked further questions last night. Photographs appeared to show he was affiliated to a pro-Russian militia Slovenskí Branci.

Mr Fico was shot in the arm and stomach and his injuries were so severe there was no time to transfer him to the capital, Bratislava.

Slovak interior minister Matus Sutaj Estok confirmed he was conscious after major surgery last night but had suffered ‘serious body trauma’.

Mr Estok warned police would ‘act’ on anyone backing the assassination online as he also pledged a huge clampdown on security.

Mr Fico rails against immigration and LGBT issues and has been unsparing in his support for Russia in its war against Ukraine.

He has reversed the previous Slovakian government’s stance on the Ukraine conflict and called for military aid to Kyiv to cease.

The prime minister was airlifted to a nearby hospital after suffering gunshot wounds to the arm and stomach

The prime minister was airlifted to a nearby hospital after suffering gunshot wounds to the arm and stomach

He has also become a close ally of Hungary’s premier Viktor Orban, another refusenik inside Nato and the European Union.

Struck down in office, Europe’s murdered PMs 

The last European leader to be assassinated was Zoran Dindic, the prime minister of Serbia.

He was shot in Belgrade in March 2003 while entering the Serbian government’s headquarters and died almost instantly.

In February 1986, the prime minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, was shot on an evening walk home from the cinema with his wife, Lisabeth Palme.

See also  Nurse who poisoned young boy with 'industrial amounts' of laxatives over three years - leaving him emaciated, permanently disfigured and with a growth stunt - is jailed for seven years

Luis Carrero Blanco, the prime minister of Spain, was killed in in a bomb blast in Madrid just five days before Christmas in 1973. He had only been prime minister for six months.

Spencer Perceval is the only serving British Prime Minister to have been assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11 May 1812.

Last night, given his opposition to the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine, there was speculation online suggesting the shooting could have been ordered by Kyiv.

The leader of Slovakia’s pro-European and pro-Nato opposition party was forced to issue a public denial that he had anything to do with the assassination attempt. Mr Fico has also provoked fury with his leftist Direction party’s plans to give government full control of public radio and TV. The alleged gunman made a ‘confession’ in custody where he blamed this crackdown for the supposed assassination attempt.

Russia is expected to seek to politicise the shooting by suggesting politicians in EU and in Nato states who dare to challenge the orthodoxy surrounding support for Ukraine are no longer safe.

Former chairman of the Commons defence committee, Tobias Ellwood, said: ‘As Slovakia increasingly comes under threat from Russia’s influence this tragic incident could easily be used as justification to introduce similar draconian restrictions as we now see in Hungary and Belarus.’

Western nations condemned the attack on Mr Fico. US President Joe Biden said it was a ‘horrific act of violence’.

President Zelensky added: ‘We strongly condemn this act of violence against our neighbouring partner state’s head of government.’ Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: ‘Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

It’s over – Joe knows it and America knows it. Now MAUREEN CALLAHAN gives it straight to the spineless Democrats: After THAT car crash national address, keeping Biden in office isn’t just unpatriotic… it’s dangerous

It’s no longer up for debate: Joe Biden has got to go.…

Brazil bans guns from capital ahead of Lula’s inauguration

Licensed gun owners will not be permitted to carry their weapons in…

Massachusetts high school graduating class of 2023 contains 15 pairs of twins and a set of triplets

The 2023 graduation class of a Massachusetts high school will have you…

Britain’s most senior black police officer retires after bullying and discrimination accusations

Britain’s most senior black police officer who was responsible for stamping out…