‘My people have bigger problems than Ukraine’ – EU state’s election winner
The Slovak Social Democracy (SMER-SD) party will not support further military aid for Ukraine, its leader, Robert Fico, told journalists on Sunday. The group took first place in the parliamentary elections at the weekend and is now poised to start talks about forming a government.
“Slovakia and the people of Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine,” he said at a press conference following the announcement of the election results. The SMER-SD won around 23% of the vote, with its closest competitor, Progressive Slovakia (PS), receiving some 18%.
When asked about his party’s stance on helping Kiev, Fico said that, if his party successfully forms a government, it would still be ready to help, but only in a humanitarian way. “We are prepared to help with the reconstruction of the state, but you know our opinion on arming Ukraine,” he said.
The SMER-SD conducted an election campaign under the slogan “Not a single round,” suggesting that it would end military assistance to Kiev. An EU and NATO member state with a population of around 5.5 million, Slovakia has already supplied Ukrainian forces with armored personnel carriers, howitzers, and its entire fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets.
Last week, Fico vowed at one of his campaign rallies that his party would not “send a single round [of ammunition] to Ukraine” if it won the election. On Sunday, the politician, who is a former prime minister, described the ongoing conflict as a great tragedy, adding that prolonging the standoff would only make things worse.
“We will do everything we can to start peace negotiations as quickly as possible,” he said, referring to the conflict between Moscow and Kiev. “Further killing does not benefit anyone,” Fico added.
Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova said on Sunday that she would formally ask Fico to form a new government on Monday.
With no party set to win a majority, Slovakia will need to form a coalition government. The pro-European HLAS (Voice) party, which took third place with 14.7%, did not rule out a possible alliance with SMER-SD. Fico also received congratulations on his election victory from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said it would “always [be] good to work together with a patriot.”
A victory by Fico and his party has reportedly sparked concerns in the US. According to Russian foreign intelligence, Washington had sought to keep the previous Slovakian government in power.