Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico still in serious condition, officials say


  • World
  • Saturday, 18 May 2024

Slovakia's Health Minister Zuzana Dolinkova, Minister of Defense Robert Kalinak and director of the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital in Banska Bystrica Miriam Lapunikova hold a press conference outside the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital, where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is hospitalised following an assassination attempt, in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia, May 18, 2024. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia (Reuters) -Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico remains in serious condition and still faces risks of complications but has stabilised, officials said on Saturday, following Wednesday's assassination attempt.

The prime minister, 59, was shot at five times at point-blank range in an attack that sent shockwaves through Europe and raised concerns over the polarised state of politics in Slovakia, a central European country of 5.4 million people.

"We have not won yet, that is important to say," Deputy Prime Minister Robert Kaliniak said, giving an update on Fico's condition in front of the hospital in the town of Banka Bystrica where the prime minister is being treated.

The Slovak Specialised Criminal Court ruled on Saturday that the suspect, identified by prosecutors as Juraj C., would remain in custody after being charged with attempted murder.

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok has said the suspected attacker, who was detained on the spot, acted alone. The suspect had previously taken part in anti-government protests, he said on Thursday.

Kalinak said there was no need to formally take over Fico's official duties while some communication with the premier was taking place.

Fico underwent a two-hour operation on Friday that improved prospects for his recovery.

"We are succeeding in gradually nearing a positive prognosis," Kalinak said.

"In the initial hours, the prognosis was very, very bad, you know that shots into the abdomen are basically fatal, in this case (the doctors) managed to overturn this state and further stabilise the condition."

Fico still faced a "big risk" of complications, Kalinak said. "The body's reaction to a shooting wound is always very serious and brings (the risk of) a number of complications, which lasts for 4-5 days, which is today and tomorrow."

He said it was unlikely Fico could be transferred to the capital, Bratislava, in coming days.

About 100 Fico supporters, some carrying flowers, gathered on Saturday outside the F.D. Roosevelt University Hospital where the premier was being treated.

Local news media say the suspect is a 71-year-old former security guard at a shopping mall and the author of three collections of poetry.

The court ruled he would remain in custody pending an investigation because of the risk of escape or criminal activity. The decision is subject to appeal.

Since returning for a fourth time as prime minister last October, Fico has shifted policy quickly in what opposition critics called a power grab. His government has scaled back support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, and is revamping the public broadcaster amid concern from critics about media freedom.

(Reporting by Bernadett Szabo and Jan Lopatka, Writing by Justyna Pawlak, Editing by Louise Heavens, David Holmes and Frances Kerry)

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