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16 May, 2024 12:01

Slovakia faces ‘civil war’ – interior minister

The attempt to kill Prime Minister Robert Fico stems from a combustible political environment in the country, a top official has said
Slovakia faces ‘civil war’ – interior minister

Slovakia appears to be on the brink of a civil war, its interior minister has warned, following the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico on Wednesday.

The head of the Slovak government was shot in the eastern town of Handlova, where he had chaired a working meeting. The gunman, identified by the media as an opposition party supporter in his early 70s, acted on political motives, according to Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kalinak.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok warned that the country was “on the edge of a civil war” over political tensions. Social media is full of “hateful comments” in the wake of the attack, he added.

Meanwhile, according to Kalinak, who spoke to journalists outside the hospital in the city of Banska Bystrica, where Fico was rushed for emergency surgery, “the inability to accept the will of some part of the public, which some group does not like, is the result that they have worked towards today.”

Fico, a nationalist and euro-skeptic, assumed office last year, after his Smer-SD party won the parliamentary election in September. He promised to put Slovakia’s interests first, including in the highly-contentious issue of the Ukraine conflict. His refusal to provide more arms to Kiev stood in sharp contrast to the previous government.

His victory was a defeat for Progressive Slovakia (PS), which suffered a second electoral upset in April. The presidential candidate endorsed by the pro-EU party was defeated by Peter Pellegrini. PS co-founder Zuzana Caputova is set to complete her term as president next month.

Fico has lashed out at comments coming from supporters of the opposition, particularly those upset by the waning power of the Progressives. He has also accused some media outlets of fanning the flames.

Some Slovaks are denouncing supporters of political forces they do not like as “misguided blind folk” that they are ashamed to have as their neighbors, he lamented in a video statement last month. Politicians face obscenities in the streets, he added.

”I expect this frustration to turn so intense that it could lead to the murder of one of the leading government officials,” Fico warned.

Many Slovak politicians and foreign leaders have condemned the attempt on Fico’s life. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Slovak leader was a “courageous and strong-spirited man,” and that those qualities would hopefully help him overcome the crisis. Fico’s deputy, Tomas Taraba, said his surgery was a success and that the prime minister is expected to recover.