Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and taken to a hospital. He is said to have survived an operation lasting several hours well. The suspected attacker was arrested.

An assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico has left Slovakia, an EU and NATO member state, in a state of shock. Until Thursday morning, there was uncertainty about the health of the 59-year-old, who had to undergo an emergency operation lasting several hours in the regional capital Banska Bystrica on Wednesday. Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok and Defense Minister Robert Kalinak announced directly in the clinic on Wednesday evening that Fico’s condition was life-threatening and “extremely serious.” According to Environment Minister Tomas Taraba, Fico was hit by several bullets. One of them went into the stomach, Taraba told BBC.

Early in the morning, Slovak media reported that Fico had regained consciousness after the operation. However, neither the television station TA3 nor the newspaper “Dennik” gave any details about the head of government’s health.

In Slovakia, the otherwise heated political debate came to a standstill. A turbulent parliamentary session was canceled on Wednesday afternoon and adjourned indefinitely. The liberal opposition parties canceled all political rallies for the time being. They had originally called for a mass demonstration on Wednesday evening against the government led by the left-wing populist Fico and its plan to dissolve the public radio and television RTVS.

According to reports, the perpetrator is a 71-year-old named Juraj C., a former employee of a private security service. This was not initially officially confirmed. The Interior Minister simply said that the perpetrator had “a clearly political motive,” as an initial interrogation revealed. According to media reports, the wife of the alleged perpetrator was also questioned by the police.

The Slovakian portal “” spoke to the suspect’s son. He had “absolutely no idea what my father was planning to do and why this happened.” When asked whether his father felt hatred for Fico, the son simply replied: “Let me put it this way – he didn’t vote for him.” He never spoke of wanting to attack or kill a politician. He was also not under psychiatric treatment. “He’s rather impulsive,” said the son. A video has also emerged in Slovak media in which the dazed man is said to be saying after his arrest: “I don’t agree with government policy.”

Fico was shot by an assassin at around 2:30 p.m. when he went outside after a cabinet meeting in the cultural center in the small town of Handlova to greet waiting supporters. Eyewitnesses told the TV news channel TA3 that at least four shots were heard in front of the House of Culture in Handlova when Fico went outside after the cabinet meeting to mingle with the population and shake hands. The local television RTV Prievidza published a video of the crime: You can see a man pushing himself against the fence and shooting at the Prime Minister from close range, who then collapses. Another video shows Fico being dragged by companions to a company limousine to bring him to safety. The attacker was arrested.

A reporter from public television RTVS, who was able to see the perpetrator up close after the arrest, said that the man appeared disoriented and had blood on his forehead. But that was probably because the police officers overpowered him and pushed him to the ground. The exact background was initially unclear.

“Just before I was about to shake his hand, I heard four shots. Robert fell on the ground,” a man said on the square in front of the House of Culture in Handlova on public broadcaster RTVS on Wednesday. A cabinet meeting had previously taken place there. He is in shock. “This is something terrible, these were shots from behind,” he added. A woman told the station about the shooter: “The man was standing there from the start. (…) He just waited.”

The police evacuated the cultural center where the government meeting was held. A few days ago, Fico accused the liberal opposition of creating a climate of hostility against the government. It cannot be ruled out that an act of violence will occur at some point in such a climate.

President Zuzana Caputova spoke of a brutal attack. “I’m shocked,” she said, wishing Fico a speedier recovery. Blaha said the parliamentary session had been adjourned until further notice.

On X, Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke of a “cowardly attack.” “Violence must have no place in European politics. “In these hours my thoughts are with Robert Fico, the relatives and the citizens of Slovakia,” Scholz continued.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also commented on X. She wrote: “I strongly condemn the despicable attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico. Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most valuable common good. My thoughts are with Prime Minister Fico and his family.” EU Council President Charles Michel said he was shocked by the attack. Violence and such attacks cannot be justified by anything, he wrote on X.

Parliament in Bratislava held a heated debate on Wednesday over one of the most controversial plans of Fico’s government, consisting of two social democratic and a right-wing populist national party SNS.

Culture Minister Martina Simkovicova, proposed by the SNS, wants to dissolve the public broadcaster RTVS and replace it with a new institution. She has the approval of her coalition partners, who have repeatedly accused RTVS of being partial. The opposition parties, on the other hand, accuse the government of wanting to replace the radio and television RTVS, which polls show is trustworthy, with a propaganda station. However, it was initially unclear whether there was a connection to the attack and the debate.

Fico recently accused the liberal opposition of fomenting a climate of hostility against his government. Given the heated atmosphere, it cannot be ruled out that an act of violence could occur at some point.

Fico is the founder and head of the left-wing party Smer-SSD, which has recently become increasingly nationalistic, and has been one of the most popular politicians in Slovakia for almost 30 years. But at the same time he polarizes like no other. Opponents call him “pro-Russian” and accuse him of wanting to lead Slovakia on a similar course to Hungary under the aegis of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who governs with authoritarian means.

In fact, unlike Hungary, Slovakia has supported all EU sanctions against Russia since Fico’s return to government in October and has also agreed to all EU aid to Ukraine – including the use of frozen Russian funds for Ukraine and support for Ukraine’s accession to the EU, but not to NATO. Contrary to misleading media reports, Fico does not fundamentally reject the sanctions against Russia. However, he criticizes the fact that some of them are doing more harm to Slovakia, which is dependent on Russian gas, oil and uranium, than to Russia itself. Instead, he is calling for sanctions that would hit Russia more severely.