Slovak officials say attempted assassination of PM Fico motivated by reduced Ukraine aid, other policy squabbles

The alleged gunman implicated in the recent attack on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has been formally charged with attempted premeditated murder, high-ranking officials said during a press conference on Thursday, during which they also described the attack as politically motivated.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok described the attacker as a “lone wolf” and said he was “radicalized” after the country’s latest presidential elections. The country’s political landscape was transformed last October by the populist prime minister’s return to power. Fico campaigned with an emphasis on reducing military aid to Ukraine, and has since implemented a range of controversial policies. In staging the attack, Sutaj Estok said, the suspect was motivated by his opposition to several such policies, including the dissolution of Slovakia’s Special Prosecutor’s Office, reduced aid to Ukraine, the overhaul of state TV and radio broadcasters, and the ouster of a high-ranking judiciary official.

Also during Thursday’s conference, Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak provided updates on Fico’s health, emphasizing the gravity of the wounds he sustained from four gunshots. “The extent of the injuries sustained by the Prime Minister is large. It’s polytraumatic damage to his body. The surgery — in terms of the duration and number of surgeons — just confirms the gravity,” he said, later adding: “We can only hope that the situation will improve.”

The officials warned reporters attending the conference of the role shoddy journalism can have in exacerbating violence, saying: “All we ask [from the press] is for objective reporting, in order to avoid having lone wolves who have been radicalized thinking that abolishing the Special Prosecutor’s Office is sufficient reason to shoot somebody.”

Kaliniak and Sutaj Etok didn’t name the alleged assailant during the conference, citing embargos preventing the dissemination of information. Local media identified the suspect Tuesday as 71-year-old writer Juraj Čintula. He was initially described as a member of the country’s Progressive Slovakia party, though the latter quickly distanced itself from him.

Party co-founder Michal Šimečka stated: “We share the dismay over today’s assassination attempt on the prime minister. We are concerned about further escalation of tension in society. Therefore, we warn against spreading false information about the shooter. We unequivocally reject any suggestion that he was a member of our movement. There is absolutely no other connection between him and our party or our members. We strongly condemn his atrocious act.”

If convicted, the suspect faces 25 years in prison.