‘The next few hours will be decisive’ — Slovak PM Robert Fico in critical condition following assassination attempt, suspect detained

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times on Wednesday, and remains in critical condition. In a statement to JURIST, the Slovak Government said:

Today, during the government’s off-site meeting in Handlova, an assassination attempt was made on the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Robert Fico. He is currently in critical condition and being transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica because it would take too long to reach Bratislava given the necessity of urgent medical intervention.

The prime minister’s official Facebook page also released a statement: “He was shot multiple times and is currently in critical condition. … The next few hours will be decisive.”

Local media reported that the alleged shooter was taken into custody immediately after the attack, naming the suspect as Juraj Čintula, a 71-year-old man described as a “well-known writer” and a supporter of the opposition party Progressive Slovakia. The party quickly distanced itself from the attack, with its co-founder Michal Šimečka stating: “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.”

Following the shooting, Progressive Slovakia announced that a pre-planned rally in support of Slovakia’s public broadcaster had been canceled and called on the country’s politicians to avoid escalating tensions.

As these events unfold in real-time, a motive has yet to be determined. Fico has provoked controversy in Slovakia for his perceived friendliness toward Moscow against the backdrop of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Bloomberg reported in March that thousands protested outside of his office in Bratislava, chanting “shame” after a speaker said: “The pro-Russian rhetoric and propaganda by government officials is unacceptable and threatens our security interests and future!” The article described Fico’s Slovakia as having become “one of the most pro-Russian countries in Europe.”

European officials swiftly condemned the attack.

Ursula Vvon der Leyen, President of the European Commission, wrote: “I strongly condemn the vile attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico. Such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good. My thoughts are with PM Fico and his family.”

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky wrote: “The attack on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico is appalling. We strongly condemn this act of violence against our neighboring partner state’s head of government. Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form, or sphere. We sincerely hope Robert Fico recovers soon and express our solidarity with the people of Slovakia.”

This is a developing story.