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The man who shot Slovakia's prime minister acted alone because of his opposition to the government | International

Slovakia is in shock after the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico last Wednesday. Thursday's day is marked by the certainty that his life is no longer in danger. The leader is conscious and can communicate verbally, according to the country's president-elect Peter Pellegrini, who was able to speak with him Thursday at the hospital where he underwent emergency surgery Wednesday afternoon after being shot several times. leaving a government meeting in the city of Hanlová. The alleged perpetrator of the attack acted alone, motivated by his opposition to the government, which, according to Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok, intensified after last April's presidential elections. Police have charged the detainee with “attempted premeditated murder,” a crime for which he faces a prison sentence of between 25 years and life in prison.

Slovak Defense Minister Robert Kalinak during a press conference on the health of Prime Minister Robert Fico.Photo: EFE (MARTIN DIVISEK) | Video: EPV

The assailant, arrested after the shooting, shot Fico, 59, five times as he greeted several residents on the street who had come to the cultural center where his cabinet was meeting. “I was very shocked,” he reported. the Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Head of Environment, Tomas Taraba, told the BBC'Thankfully, as far as I know, the operation went well and I think he will ultimately survive. “He is not currently in a life-threatening situation.” According to Taraba, one bullet pierced Fico's stomach and a second pierced a joint.

Defense chief Robert Kalinak added that the head of the Slovak government remains in serious but stable condition in intensive care. Hospital director Miriam Lapuníková also reported that Fico suffered several injuries. He also indicated that the first operation lasted five hours and that he is waiting for the next procedure, “but his medication can cause problems,” according to the Slovak newspaper. Pravda.

Following the magnitude of what happened, the Slovak Security Council and the executive branch held talks throughout Thursday. The assassination attempt, which shocked Slovak society, has drawn unanimous condemnation from the international community, from Washington to Moscow, including the European Union and the United Nations.

The acting Slovak President, Zuzana Caputová, has invited all leaders of the parliamentary parties to a joint meeting and asked for a reduction of political tensions in Slovak society. The liberal politician, who ends her term in June, made the invitation in a public statement, accompanied by her successor, the incoming president, Peter Pellegrini. “Together we invite the leaders of all parliamentary forces to the presidential palace with a single goal: to calm the situation and reject violence,” Caputová said, describing the attack as “a great human tragedy and an attack on the democratic order. ” For his part, the Social Democrat Pellegrini has requested that the campaign for the European Parliament elections be “temporarily paused” or “significantly moderated” to avoid confrontations. “It is the last thing Slovakia needs right now,” he argued.

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The country's authorities are now investigating whether there was negligence in the security measures put in place around the head of government at the time of the shooting. The shooter was able to unlock his weapon at virtually a short distance, separated from Fico only by a fence. According to Markíza TV, the gunman told police that he had planned the attack a few days earlier and that his intention was not to kill him, but to injure him.

The attack

The first information provided on Wednesday after the attack raised fears for the Slovak prime minister's life. Kalinak stated at a press conference that Fico had suffered “severe multiple trauma” as a result of the impact of several projectiles. The head of the Interior, Sutaj Estok, reported that his life was in danger. According to the recordings of citizens who went to the place where the attack took place, a man, who was among the audience greeting Fico, grabbed his gun and fired when the Slovak Prime Minister passed by. He fell to the ground but was immediately picked up by his security staff and transferred to a vehicle to be taken to a hospital.

The injured man was later transported by helicopter to the regional capital Banska Bystrica for emergency treatment. His condition was too serious to be transferred to Bratislava, the country's capital, about 200 kilometers from where the assassination attempt took place.

An emergency team transferred Fico to a hospital in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia on Wednesday.Jan Kroslák (AP/LaPresse)

The detainee

Local media identified the suspect as Juraj Cintula, a 71-year-old writer, member of the Association of Slovak Writers of the Dúha Literary Club from his city of Levice. In the past, so Slovak newspaper Denniknthe attacker had worked as a security guard in a shopping center and legally owned the weapon. Eight years ago, according to the same media outlet, he announced on the internet that he would collect signatures to establish the Movement Against Violence party. “Violence is usually a reaction of people, as a form of expression of ordinary dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. Let us be dissatisfied, but let us not be violent,” he wrote at the time.

Police already filed charges against Cintula this Thursday, accusing him of “attempted premeditated murder in revenge.” The publication tvnoviny.sk points out that the detainee has already taken part in the protest against the government and the Prime Minister, organized during the cabinet meeting on April 24 in Dolna Krupa, in the west of the country. Cintula, together with other demonstrators, shouted slogans such as “Long live Ukraine”, “Traitors” and “Enough of Fico”.

Fico returned to power in Slovakia after the September 30 parliamentary elections with a pro-Russian and populist message. In 2018, he was forced to resign as Prime Minister after protests sparked this the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner Martina Kusnirovawhen the reporter investigated links between people close to Smer, his party and the Italian mafia, as well as government corruption scandals.

political hatred

In his appearance last Wednesday, Sutaj Estok described the day as “the worst day of Slovak democracy.” And he addressed an appeal to reduce tension to the country's leaders, media and citizens, which he had already posted in his profile. Facebook: “Our common task is to immediately stop spreading political hatred.” “Everyone should look in the mirror today and see how they fueled the problems. “We must change,” he asserted in a speech that highlighted the polarization the country, a member of the European Union and the eurozone, is experiencing.

This call for calm did not prevent the Minister of the Interior from addressing the journalists present and holding them responsible for what had happened. “Many of you were the ones who sowed this hatred,” he said. The Slovak government has defended from the start that the assassination attempt was politically motivated.

Several members of the government have accused the progressive and European opposition of being responsible for the assassination attempt due to their criticism of the executive branch. The Vice President of the Slovak Parliament, Lubos Blaha, for his part, announced the suspension of the parliamentary session scheduled to take place in Bratislava next Wednesday. “This is your fault,” Smer member Blaha told opposition members in parliament. In turn, opposition deputies have responded with shouts and boos at Blaha, who is considered one of the men close to Fico. The opposition had called for a series of demonstrations on Wednesday to protest the closure of public radio and television. However, when news of the attack broke, he decided to suspend the protests.

Robert Fico
Fico, at a press conference in Budapest (Hungary), on January 16.Denes Erdos (AP/LaPresse)

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