Slovakian PM survives assassination attempt as outlets cite suspect's pro-Russia stance

Handlova, Slovakia - On Wednesday in the central Slovakian town of Handlova, Prime Minister Robert Fico was attacked in an apparent assassination attempt and shot five times before the assailant could be disarmed and taken into custody.

Although the Prime Minister was severely wounded, being shot in the stomach and several joints, he is expected to survive according to CNN. Slovakian Deputy Prime Minister Tomáš Taraba told reporters that Fico is “not in a life-threatening situation at this moment.” In an interview with BBC Newshour he said, "Fortunately, as far as I know, the operation went well and I guess in the end he will survive.”

Reporting from The Daily Mail revealed that Fico, 59, was shot at near-point-blank range by a 71-year-old, Juraj Cintula, who has been arrested and charged with attempted murder, citing Slovakian news outlets. Slovakian President-elect Peter Pellegrini described the attempted assassination as being a 'lone-wolf' attack.

He told reporters that if Fico's "gunshot wounds were just a few millimetres either side, we would be talking about him as the late prime minister."

According to Newsweek, interior minister, Matúš Šutaj Eštok told reporters Wednesday that Cintula was critical of Fico's policies. Video filmed after the shooter's arrest showed him saying he "did not agree with the policy of the authorities" and threatening that "the media will be liquidated."

Analysis by multiple outlets has pointed to serious division within the country and potential interference in the 2023 election that brought the allegedly populist, Russia-friendly Fico to power. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, told the Senate Intelligence Committee in testimony the same day that “In September 2023, two days before the parliamentary elections in Slovakia … a fake audio recording was released online in which one candidate discussed how to rig the upcoming election with journalists. The audio was quickly shown to be fake with signs of AI manipulation."

She explained that “under Slovakia law, there is a moratorium on campaigning and media commentary about the election for 48 hours before polls open. And since the deepfake was released in that window, news and government organizations struggled to expose the manipulation, and the victim of the deepfake ended up losing in a very close election.”

The Washington Examiner reported that during the campaign which saw public opinion tilt toward a Russia-friendly viewpoint, Fico pledged to cut off Slovakian aid to Ukraine and said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "wrongly demonized," by Western nations.

Although many are critical of Fico's policy toward Russia, this seems an unlikely link to Cintula's motive, according to VSquare Project journalist Szabolcs Panyi who wrote, "Looks like Slovak PM Robert Fico's reported assailant, writer Juraj Cintula, was associated with pro-Russian paramilitary group Slovenskí Branci (SB). Their leader was even trained by Russian ex-Spetsnaz soldiers."
  Both the Defense Minister and Interior Minister of Slovakia laid the blame for the attack on the increasingly incendiary political rhetoric, labeling it as "Hate Speech," per CNN reporting. The Daily Mail noted that Cintula is facing a possible 25-year sentence if convicted in the attack and his wife has been placed into protective custody against possible reprisals from Fico's supporters.
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