What social media posts can tell us about Slovak PM shooting suspect

From anti-violence Facebook posts to poetry and pictures with a "national voluntary civil militia" group, the digital footprint of the suspect in the shooting of the Slovak PM paints a murky picture.

Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot multiple times outside a cultural centre in Slovakia where he was meeting supporters on Wednesday and remains in serious condition.

Sky News has analysed and verified social media posts from and associated with Juraj Cintula, who has been charged with attempted murder, which reveal more about his political views and background.

Pictured with 'unofficial paramilitary' group

The 71-year-old former security guard from the town of Levice in western Slovakia is seen in at least two Facebook posts in 2016 with the former "largest paramilitary group" in Slovakia, Slovenski Branci.

Founded in 2012, it previously described itself as "patriotic" and "apolitical" referencing in its Instagram bio that it was a "national voluntary civil militia that sets itself the task of increasing the defence capability of the Slovak population".

Slovak news outlets have frequently described it as an "unofficial paramilitary organisation". In the first photograph posted on the group's Facebook page, Cintula stands next to the leader of the disbanded group, Peter Svreck.

We used facial recognition technology to match Cintula's face to images taken from the scene of the shooting.

Other men in military style clothing are stood holding flags with the group's logo next to the memorial of Slovak linguist Anton Bernolak in Trnava - a city northeast of the capital Bratislava.

While it's unclear exactly how deep Cintula's affiliation was with the group and its beliefs, he is quoted expressing his support for the conscripts in the captions of the two Facebook images on Slovenski Branci's page.

The group posted hundreds of images of its members in training and on marches in Slovakia. In an archived screenshot of its now-defunct website, it said aimed to "develop young people", through conscription training including "military tactics (conventional and guerrilla style of combat), weapons handling, hand-to-hand combat...".

In the caption of the image in Travana, Cintula is quoted saying that "hundreds of thousands of migrants are arriving in Europe, of which we are a permanent part", adding that Slovak conscripts are "not preparing to fight, but to defend".

In the second image of Cintula posted by Slovenski Branci just days after the first, he says that there had been "mistakes" in the beginning of the group but added that people should look at them now. While it is not clear exactly what mistakes Cintula refers to, members of Slovenski Branci had previously been accused of pro-Russia links and far-right views.

Pavol Kosnac, director of the DEKK Institute in Bratislava and previously spent time with Slovenski Branci studying the group, said it was the "largest paramilitary group in Slovakia" which was "anti-system" and their main ideological trait was patriotism.

He said the group's ultimate goal was to create a country-wide home defence organisation, but added that distrust between them and the state and a "bad" public reputation, meant it never happened.

He said during his time with the group he did not believe Cintula was a member, despite photographs of him on their page. The group disbanded in 2022 and did not provide a specific reason in their online post.

'Anti-violence movement' on Facebook

Cintula also created a movement called Movement Against Violence, Hnutie Proti násiliu, in 2016. Described as a 'political party' on its Facebook, posts on the page also suggest more about his political views.

The group says its goal is to "prevent the violence in society and to prevent war in Europe and the spread of hatred".

While it is unclear whether Cintula was the sole author of the page - he frequently signed off posts or comments with his name.

One of the latest posts shared on the page in 2022, features a video of a group of people protesting against Russia's war in Ukraine.

Other Facebook posts on the page describe facism as a "tumour", meanwhile a post in 2017 on the same page celebrates the birthday of revolutionary guerrilla Che Guevara, who was a leading figure in the Cuban revolution.

Cintula was also a member of the Rainbow Literary Club, in Levice. The group have since put out a statement describing themselves as "strictly apolitical" and revoved Cintula's membership immediately.

Slovakia's interior minister, Matus Sutaj Estok, said the suspect was a "lone wolf". Speaking previously, he said the attempt on Mr Fico's life was "politically motivated".

On Wednesday, he said an initial investigation found the suspect had a "clear political motivation" for carrying out the shooting, adding the "perpetrator's decision was born closely after the presidential election".

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.