Slovakia's PM Robert Fico in life-threatening condition after assassination attempt

Slovakia’s populist prime minister, Robert Fico, was shot multiple times and gravely wounded Wednesday while greeting supporters at a event in an attempted assassination that shocked the small country and reverberated across Europe weeks before an election.

The gunman shot Fico, 59, five times, leaving Slovakia's prime minister in critical condition, Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told a news briefing.

A suspect was in custody and an initial investigation found “a clear political motivation” behind the assassination attempt, said Sutaj Estok at a joint press briefing with Slovakia's defence minister.

Doctors were still fighting for his life several hours after the pro-Russian leader was hit in the abdomen, Defence Minister Robert Kalina told reporters.

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

The shooting in the central Slovak town of Handlova, which Slovak media said was carried out by a 71-year-old man, stunned the small central European nation.

Footage posted on X shortly after the attack showed panicked scenes, with people fleeing the area as police sealed off the scene.

Fico was rushed to hospital in Handlova where he had been chairing a government meeting. He was then transported by helicopter to regional capital Banska Bystrica for urgent treatment.

Slovakia's President Zuzana Caputova condemned “a brutal and ruthless” attack on the premier.

The EU's top two chiefs joined several other European leaders in condemning the attack.

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