July 19, 2024

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, was shot and seriously wounded on Wednesday in what the government called an assassination attempt.

A post on the prime minister’s official and verified Facebook page said that Mr. Fico was in “life-threatening condition” after sustaining “multiple” gunshot wounds.

“The next few hours will decide,” the post said.

Local media reported that the attack unfolded in the central Slovak town of Handlova, where Mr. Fico, a veteran politician, had been meeting with supporters.

President Zuzana Caputova, whose position is largely ceremonial, condemned what she described as a “brutal and reckless attack.”

“I am shocked,” she wrote in a message on Facebook. “I wish Robert Fico a lot of strength in this critical moment to recover from the attack.”

The exact nature of Mr. Fico’s injuries was not immediately known. There was no immediate comment from the police.

Images from the scene published by the Reuters news agency showed what appeared to be members of Mr. Fico’s security detail running around a black sedan. Other photographs showed a person handcuffed on the ground at the scene.

Ms. Caputova, whose term ends in June, has used her limited powers to resist Mr. Fico’s drift toward Russia and his efforts to limit the judiciary’s ability to prosecute corruption.

Mr. Fico has aligned with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, in opposing aid to Ukraine and challenging mainstream opinions within the European Union.

On Wednesday, Mr. Orban was quick to send well wishes to Mr. Fico, whom he called “my friend.”

“We pray for his health and quick recovery,” Mr. Orban wrote on social media.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission who has butted heads with Mr. Fico in the past, also said she strongly condemned the “vile attack.”

“Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good,” she wrote on social media.

Mr. Fico, who ended an earlier stint as prime minister by resigning in 2018 amid a swirl of corruption accusations, has also followed Mr. Orban in trying to neuter his country’s judiciary and in casting supporters of Ukraine as disloyal lackeys of the United States.

Mr. Fico returned to power after a general election in September, reviving a political career that many had considered over when he quit amid large street protests after the killing of an investigative journalist who had been looking into government graft.

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