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Man who shot Fico cites policy towards Ukraine as motivation for assassination attempt

by Rachel Amran and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 23, 2024 9:07 PM 2 min read
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico during the governmental consultations with the Ukrainian delegation in Michalovce, Slovakia, on April 11, 2024. (Photo by Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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The man charged with shooting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico cited his country's policy towards Ukraine as a motivation for the attempted assassination, Slovak media reported on May 23.

Fico, 59, was shot in an assassination attempt as he walked out of a government meeting in the town of Handlova on May 15. The attack left the leader in serious condition, and he has since undergone two surgeries. Slovak Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok described the shooting as "politically motivated."

The shooter, Juraj Cintula, is a 71-year-old writer and political activist. According to court documents cited by the Slovak news outlet Pravda, Cintula said he had no intention of murdering Fico but instead wanted to "harm his health." He also reportedly told investigators that nobody else knew of his plans to target Fico.  

During an interrogation at the Handlova police station, Cintula reportedly told authorities that he decided to "harm the health" of Fico because he did not agree with certain policies of the current government.

The suspect noted Fico's abolition of the special prosecutor's office, the body responsible for investigating politically sensitive corruption cases, as well as the persecution of cultural and media workers. Most importantly, Cintula said he wants military aid to be provided to Ukraine. He also reportedly called his current government "Judas" to the European Union.

Several witnesses testified that just before the shooting, Cintula addressed Fico in a "hostile manner" and criticized Fico's friendly relations with Russia and Hungary. The assailant also decried Fico for "speaking negatively" of the European Union, according to the media.

Cintula decided two days before, on May 13, to "take revenge on the government for its policies" by carrying out an attack on the Prime Minister.

If convicted, Cintula could face 25 years in prison.

Elected in September 2023 on a populist, Ukraine-skeptic platform, Fico halted arms supplies from Slovakia's military stocks and has repeatedly criticized both defense assistance for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.

The official also blamed "Ukrainian Nazis and fascists" for provoking Russia's war of aggression, repeating false talking points of Russian propaganda.

Fico has since expressed support for Ukraine's accession to the EU.

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