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Slovak PM’s ‘life in danger’ still in operating theatre: Defence Minister

The attack comes as political campaigning heats up three weeks ahead of Europe-wide elections to choose lawmakers for the European Parliament.

Slovak PMsPRAGUE: The Slovak defense minister says doctors are fighting for the life of the country’s prime minister, who was shot multiple times after a political event.

Defense Minister Robert Kalinak, a close ally of Prime Minister Robert Fico in his Smer-Social Democracy party, made the remark Wednesday evening to reporters at a hospital in Banska Bystrica.

He said an operation on Fico was not yet complete and described his condition as “extraordinarily serious.”

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, was shot multiple times and gravely wounded Wednesday after a political event in an attempted assassination that shocked the small country and reverberated across Europe.

The pro-Russian leader, 59, was reported to be fighting for his life after being hit in the stomach. At least four shots were fired outside a cultural center in the town of Handlova, nearly 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital, where Fico was meeting with supporters, the government said.

A suspect was in custody, the country’s president said in a televised statement. Fico was taken by helicopter to a hospital.

The motive for the shooting was unclear.

Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond, but his return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American message led to even greater worries among fellow European Union members that he would lead his country further from the Western mainstream.

His government halted arms deliveries to Ukraine, and critics worry that he will lead Slovakia — a nation of 5.4 million that belongs to NATO — to abandon its pro-Western course and follow in the footsteps of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

A message posted to Fico’s Facebook account said he was taken to a hospital in Banská Bystrica, 29 kilometers (17 miles) from Handlova, because it would take too long to get to the capital, Bratislava.

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