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‘A wake-up call to West’: Europe on edge after assassination attempt on Slovakian PM Robert Fico – Times of India

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In a disturbing incident that has sent shockwaves across Europe, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was targeted in an assassination attempt that left him seriously injured. The event unfolded on a seemingly ordinary day in Handlova, Slovakia, when Fico was approached by a gunman as he was engaging with supporters. The assailant fired five times at close range, critically wounding the prime minister.
The PM’s bodyguards swiftly intervened, tackling the gunman and whisking Fico away in a government vehicle.He was subsequently airlifted to a hospital for emergency medical treatment.
“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,” Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Environment Minister Tomas Taraba told the BBC’s Newshour.
The attacker, identified as 71-year-old Slovak poet Juraj Cintula, was arrested at the scene. The motivations behind the attack appear to be politically charged, reflecting deep divisions within Slovakia and broader regional tensions. Cintula reportedly made a “confession” in custody, blaming Fico’s media policies for his drastic actions.
Who is Robert Fico?
A seasoned figure in Slovakian politics, Fico was born in 1964 and began his political career as a member of the Communist Party before Slovakia became its independent nation. With a law degree and vast experience in legal and governmental roles, Fico has been a dominant force in Slovak politics.
Fico’s political journey is marked by significant milestones, including his first election to Slovakia’s parliament in 1992 and his subsequent rise to become the chairman of the Smer (Direction) party in 1999. His tenure is characterized by a left-populist ideology, though comparisons have been drawn with right-wing leaders like Viktor Orbán of Hungary.
After a hiatus, Fico reclaimed the prime ministerial position last year, marking his third term and establishing him as the longest-serving head of government in Slovakia’s history. His recent electoral victory was fueled by a platform that controversially aligned more closely with pro-Russian stances and criticized US and Nato policies, especially regarding the situation in Ukraine.
Europe on edge
This assassination attempt occurs against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical tension. Fico, known for his pro-Putin stance, has been a controversial figure in European politics, especially regarding his opposition to supporting Ukraine against Russian aggressions.
Starting his fourth term as prime minister, Fico administration stopped arms shipments to Ukraine, and critics are concerned that he might steer Slovakia — a Nato member with a population of 5.4 million — away from its pro-Western trajectory towards a path similar to that of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has shown support for Fico in the past, condemned the attack. Describing the shooting as a “monstrous” crime, Putin said in a telegram sent to Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova: “I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to survive this difficult situation.”
The implications of this attack are far-reaching, raising concerns about the stability of not only Slovakia but the entire European region. Fico’s policies and his alignment with Russia have been divisive, and this incident may further inflame political tensions.
World leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have condemned the attack. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasized that such acts of violence undermine democracy and have no place in society.
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of UK’s 1st Royal Tank Regiment, expressed his concerns to Daily Mail, saying, “There are high stakes in Europe and the threat of a wider war only benefits Putin.”
He further warned, “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.”
(With inputs from agencies)

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