1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Slovakia: PM Fico shot in 'an attack on democracy'

Published May 15, 2024last updated May 15, 2024

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico underwent surgery after being shot in an "assassination attempt," his office has said. His deputy prime minister said he thought Fico would survive following the operation.

Emergency workers wheel Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and injured, to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica
Defense Minister Robert Kalina called Fico's condition "extremely serious"Image: Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP/picture alliance

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a "life-threatening condition" in hospital after being shot five times in what his office has called an "assassination attempt."

"Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt on the prime minister of the Slovak Republic, Robert Fico," the government said.

Local broadcaster TA3 reported that five shots were fired in the central Slovakian town, at least one hitting Fico in the stomach.

Video footage from the scene showed Fico's bodyguards dragging him into his car and police officers pinning down an apparent suspect.

Slovak PM Fico severely injured after being shot

Handlova hospital director Marta Eckhardtova told the AFP news agency,  "Mr. Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic."

Officials initially said Fico was being transferred to the capital, Bratislava, before his office said he was being taken to another hospital in the nearby city of Banska.

Surgery reportedly went well

Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC Fico's surgery "went well."

"I was very shocked ... 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," Taraba said.

Slovak media reported Fico had regained consciousness following the operation but did not provide additional details on his condition.

On Wednesday evening, Slovak Defense Minister Robert Kalinak, a close party ally of Fico, told reporters that doctors were still operating on the Prime Minister and "fighting for his life." He described Fico's condition as "extremely serious."

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok said authorities suspected a "political motive."

What do we know about the shooting?

The shooting occurred in Handlova, a small town about 150 kilometers (93 miles) northeast of Bratislava.

It occurred in front of the local "House of Culture" where populist leader Fico had been meeting supporters just three weeks ahead of crucial European Parliament elections.

"Just as I was about to shake his hand, I heared four shots and Robert fell to the ground," one eye-witness told local public broadcaster RTVS. "It was horrible, they were shots from behind."

A person is detained after shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico
One person has been detainedImage: Radovan Stoklasa/REUTERS

Another eye-witness said of the shooter: "The man was stood here from the start, he was just waiting."

Slovak media said the shooter was a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall.

The man was allegedly a member of the Slovak Society of Writers and the author of three collections of poetry.

The Slovakian parliament's Deputy Speaker Lubos Blaha confirmed the incident during a session of parliament, which was adjourned until further notice.

Following the shooting, Slovakia's biggest opposition party called off a planned protest against government public broadcaster reforms which had been set for Wednesday evening.

Security guards react at the scene of a shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico
Security guards react at the scene of a shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert FicoImage: Radovan Stoklasa/REUTERS

World leaders condemn attack

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen led international condemnation of the "vile" attack and said, "Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said "violence has no place in European politics," while Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said he was "profoundly shocked" by the news, saying: "Such extreme acts have no justification and the perpetrators must be held accountable."

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a political ally of Fico, said he was "deeply shocked by the heinous attack" on his "friend."

Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin offered their best wishes, reflecting Slovakia's ambiguous position in European geopolitics under Fico.

Later in the day, US President Joe Biden condemned a "horrific act of violence" and said the US embassy in Bratislava was "is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist."

Slovakian politicians call for calm

Outgoing Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova condemned "a brutal and ruthless" attack on the premier.

"I'm shocked," Caputova said. "I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment and a quick recovery from this attack."

Slovakia's president slams 'attack on democracy'

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, called the assassination attempt "an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy. If we express other political opinions with pistols in squares, and not in polling stations, we are jeopardizing everything that we have built together over 31 years of Slovak sovereignty."

After some politicians from Fico's ruling coalition had cast blame on the country's liberal opposition, Slovakian Interior Minister Sutaj Estok called for restraint.

"It is totally understandable that emotions are running high but it would be bad to further inflame this dangerous situation," he warned via Facebook, calling the attack an "attack on democracy."

"For me personally, it's an awful disappointment that our common efforts to belong to the civilized world of the most developed countries have been fruitless." 

Who is Robert Fico?

Fico, the longest-serving prime minister in Slovakia's history, began his latest term in October 2023 after campaigning on a promise to scale back military support to Ukraine.

His party, "Direction — Social Democracy" — known as Smer — won just under 23% of the vote and formed a coalition with "Voice — Social Democracy" — known as Hlas — and the pro-Russian Slovak National Party.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert FicoImage: Petr David Josek/AP Photo/picture alliance

During a three-decade career, Fico has fluctuated between the pro-European mainstream and more nationalistic positions opposed to European Union and US policies.

For instance, he once hailed Slovakia's adoption of the euro as a "significant historic decision" but took aim at the EU, NATO and Ukraine during his recent election campaign in a bid to woo far-left and far-right voters.

mf/lo (Reuters, AP, DPA, AFP)