Slovakia's PM Robert Fico living 'worst days of his life' - as leader attacks 'attempted assassination on democracy'

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico escaped death "by just a hair," the president-elect has said, revealing that if the gunshot wounds he sustained in yesterday's attack were just a couple of millimetres in either direction he would have died.

Speaking outside the hospital where Mr Fico is being treated, Peter Pellegrini said the prime minister is living "the worst hours and days of his life".

If the "gunshot wounds were just a few millimetres either side, we would be talking about him as the late prime minister", he said.

Mr Pellegrini added he had spoken to Mr Fico in hospital, but his condition "remains very serious" after he was shot several times in an attempted assassination.

Slovakia PM shot - latest: Leader 'not out of the woods yet'

The comments come as Slovak police charged a suspect in connection with the attack.

The country's interior minister Sutaj Estok described the suspect as a "lone wolf" who "did not belong to any political groups". However, he said the shooting was politically motivated.

Multiple shots were fired on Wednesday outside a cultural centre in the town of Handlova, around 85 miles northeast of the capital Bratislava, where the 59-year-old prime minister was meeting supporters, the government said.

Slovakia's deputy prime minister Robert Kalinak described the attack as "premeditated", saying Mr Fico was "not out of the woods yet".

Doctors performed a five-hour operation on Mr Fico and he is being treated in an intensive care unit, according to one hospital official.

Read more from Sky News
What we know about the Slovakia shooting suspect
Who is Slovak populist prime minister Robert Fico?

At a news conference earlier, Mr Pellegrini said he was "appalled" at "where hate can lead us" as he called for calm alongside outgoing President Zuzana Caputova.

"An attempted assassination of the prime minister is an attempted assassination on democracy," he said.

"This assassination attempt needs to be condemned by all of us jointly... We must not respond to hate with more hate or else this evil will never be stopped."

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

Mr Pellegrini has called on political parties to suspend or scale back their campaigns, while Ms Caputova, a political rival of Mr Fico, said the heads of Slovakia's political parties will meet in an effort to restore calm.

Mr Fico has long been a divisive figure. His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American ticket led to worries among fellow EU and NATO members that he would turn his country further away from the Western mainstream.

Under his stewardship, the government has halted arms deliveries to Ukraine, and his opponents worry he will lead Slovakia in the footsteps of Viktor Orban's Hungary.

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

The attack, which was the first major assassination attempt on a European political leader for more than 20 years, has been condemned internationally.

In a message released by the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin wished the prime minister a fast and full recovery.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also condemned the violence against a neighbouring country's head of government.

"Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere," he said.