Slovakia PM lashes out at opponents in first address since shooting

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on Wednesday blamed his opponents for fostering the “hatred” that led to an assassination attempt against him, in his first address since the shooting.

This frame grab made from Handout video footage made available by the Slovak government shows Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico speaking for the first time since being shot and wounded in an assassination attempt against him last month, in Bratislava, Slovakia on June 5, 2024.(AFP)

Looking calm but speaking with long pauses, the 59-year-old also said in the video on Facebook that he could resume work as early as this month.

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“I feel no hatred towards the stranger who shot me,” Fico said.

“I forgive him and let him sort out what he did and why he did it in his own head.”

But Fico said the accused gunman was not “some madman” but “a messenger of the evil and political hatred” fostered by the opposition in Slovakia.

Fico was shot four times at close range on May 15 as he greeted supporters after a government meeting in the central town of Handlova.

The alleged perpetrator, identified by Slovak media as 71-year-old poet Juraj Cintula, has been charged with premeditated attempted murder and remanded in custody.

Fico was taken to a hospital in the nearby city of Banska Bystrica after the shooting, where he underwent two lengthy surgeries.

He was transferred for home treatment to the capital Bratislava on May 31.

– ‘There will be more victims’ –

Fico said in the video posted on Wednesday that “if everything goes as planned, I could gradually return to work at the turn of June and July”.

But most of the 14-minute message was devoted to a robust defence of his views and accusations against political opponents, critical media and non-governmental organisations.

“The opposition was unable to assess… where their aggressive and hateful politics has led a section of society and it was only a matter of time before a tragedy would occur.

“If it continues as it is now, the horror of May 15… will continue and there will be more victims. I don’t doubt it, not for a second,” he said.

Fico came to power most recently following elections last year and previously headed governments in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

He was forced to resign in 2018 after an investigative journalist’s murder exposed high-level corruption and sparked anti-government sentiment.

Since returning to office last October, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine.

He has questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for a compromise with Russia, which invaded in 2022.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine.

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public television and radio.

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