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Slovak prime minister’s condition remains serious but prognosis positive after assassination bid

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, remained in serious condition on Sunday but has been given a positive prognosis four days after he was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt that has sent shockwaves across the deeply polarized European Union nation, the defense minister said.

“The worst of what we feared has passed, at least for the moment. But his condition remains serious,” Robert Kalinak told reporters outside the hospital where Fico is being treated. “His condition is stable with a positive prognosis.”

Kalinak added that the hospital treating the Slovak leader in Banská Bystrica, a former coal mining town of 16,000 situated 29 kilometers (17 miles) from where Fico was attacked, will continue to issue updates on his health status.

Milan Urbáni, deputy director of the hospital, told reporters that “Based on the doctors’ morning consultation, we can conclude that the patient is currently out of a life-threatening condition. His condition remains very serious, and he needs a long time to rest to recover. We firmly believe that everything will go in a good direction.”

Fico, 59, was shot in the abdomen as he greeted supporters on Wednesday outside a cultural center in the town of Handlova, nearly 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital, Bratislava. Video showed the Slovak premier approach people gathered at barricades and reach out to shake hands as a man stepped forward, extended his arm and fired five rounds before being tackled and arrested.

On Friday, Fico underwent two hours of surgery to remove dead tissue from his gunshot wounds, but he was not healthy enough to be transferred to the capital, officials said Saturday.

The country’s Specialized Criminal Court in the town of Pezinok on Saturday ordered the suspected assailant, who is charged with attempted murder, to remain behind bars. Prosecutors said they feared he could flee or commit other crimes if freed, a court spokesperson said. The suspect can appeal the order.

Little information about the would-be assassin has been disclosed after prosecutors told police not to publicly identify him or release details about the case. Unconfirmed media reports have named him and said he was a 71-year-old retiree known as an amateur poet who may have once worked as a mall security guard.

Government authorities have given details that matched that description. They said the suspect didn’t belong to any political groups, though the attack itself was politically motivated.

Fico said last month on Facebook that he believed rising tensions in the country could lead to the killing of politicians, and he blamed the media for fueling tensions in the country of 5.4 million.

In his address on Sunday, Kalinak also stressed that lessons must be learned from the violent attack on Fico, who has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. “This must be a memento. If we don’t learn, we’re heading for hell,” he said. “We need to bring this situation back to what we can consider standard.”

President-elect Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Fico, said on Sunday that Slovakia is a “wounded country” in the wake of the assassination attempt.

“In these difficult moments, each of us decides by our actions whether these wounds will heal or whether other wounds will compound them,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

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Stanislav Hodina in Prague, Czech Republic, and Stephen McGrath in Side, Turkey, contributed to this report.


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