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BERLIN, GERMANY - 24 JANUARY: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks to the media prior to talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Chancellery on 24 January 2024 in Berlin, Germany. Fico is at odds with many E.U. leaders over a number of issues, including immigration and military support for Ukraine. He has also sought to strengthen Slovakia's ties to Russia and praised the nationalism of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico Shot Outside Community Center

A shooter opened fire outside a cultural community center in Handlova, Slovakia, wounding Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Fico was transported to a hospital and the suspect was detained by police, according to the Associated Press (AP). Authorities have not released the name of the suspect.

“Reports on TA3, a Slovakian TV station, said that Fico, 59, was hit in the stomach after four shots were fired outside the House of Culture in the town of Handlova, some 150 kilometers northeast of the capital, where the leader was meeting with supporters,” according to the AP. “A suspect has been detained, it said. Police sealed off the scene.”

The BBC reports that Fico’s security team initially bundled him into a car after he was wounded. He was then airlifted to a nearby hospital.

A statement on Fico's Facebook page called the attack an “assassination” and said his injuries were life threatening. 

“At this moment, he is transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute procedure,” the statement said. “The next few hours will decide.”

In a statement on X (formerly known as Twitter) Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová said she was “shocked by today’s brutal and reckless” attack on Fico and condemned it.

“I wish him a lot of strength in this critical moment and early recovery,” Čaputová wrote. “My thoughts are also with his family and close ones.”

Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban also tweeted out his support for Fico, calling the attack a “heinous attack” on his friend.

Fico was re-elected for a third term, returning to power in September 2023. He is considered a populist and leads a leftist party, Smer or Direction Party, that campaigned with pro-Russian and anti-American messaging.

During the campaign, Fico repeated Russian President Vladmir Putin’s false claims that Ukraine’s government is a Nazi state. Fico has also called the war between Russia and Ukraine “a frozen conflict” that cannot be resolved by sending arms to Ukraine.

Since Fico took office, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the government’s plans to close corruption prosecutor's offices, amend the penal code, and overhaul public broadcasting.

In April, Fico’s close ally—Parliamentary Speaker Peter Pellegrini—won the election to become Slovakia’s new president. Slovakia’s president has the power to choose the prime minister after parliamentary elections, swear in government, appoint judges, and veto laws, the AP reports.

After the shooting on Wednesday, Reuters reports that Slovakia’s largest opposition party delayed a planned protest to demonstrate against public broadcaster reforms.

The assault on Fico occurred at a key time for campaigning in Europe. European Parliament elections will be held in three weeks, and the AP reports that “populist and hard-right parties in the 27-nation bloc appear poised to make gains.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, called the attack on Fico “vile” and wrote on X that “such acts of violence have no place in our society and undermine democracy, our most precious common good.”

The assault on Fico is the latest in a rise of attacks on politicians during a record election year when more than 50 countries will elect leaders. In Germany, several politicians have been attacked while making appearances before the public. In 2022, former Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe was killed while delivering a campaign speech for a Liberal Democratic Party candidate.

This is a breaking news story. Security Management will continue to update this article as more information is confirmed.