Slovak PM Underwent Another Operation, Remains in Serious Condition

A supporter of the Slovakian government holds a Slovakian flag as he stands on May 17, 2024 in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot "multiple times" the day before. (AFP)
A supporter of the Slovakian government holds a Slovakian flag as he stands on May 17, 2024 in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot "multiple times" the day before. (AFP)
TT

Slovak PM Underwent Another Operation, Remains in Serious Condition

A supporter of the Slovakian government holds a Slovakian flag as he stands on May 17, 2024 in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot "multiple times" the day before. (AFP)
A supporter of the Slovakian government holds a Slovakian flag as he stands on May 17, 2024 in front of the hospital in Banska Bystrica, Slovakia where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is being treated after he was shot "multiple times" the day before. (AFP)

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has undergone another operation two days after being shot multiple times and remains in serious condition, officials said Friday.

Fico, 59, was attacked as he was greeting supporters after a government meeting in the former coal mining town of Handlova. A suspected assailant has been arrested.

Miriam Lapunikova, director of the University F. D. Roosevelt hospital in Banska Bystrica, where Fico was taken by helicopter after he was shot, said Fico underwent a CT scan and is currently awake and stable in an intensive care unit. She described his condition as “very serious.”

She said the surgery removed dead tissues that had remained inside Fico's body.

“I think it will take several more days until we will definitely know the direction of the further development,” Robert Kaliniak, the defense minister and deputy prime minister, told reporters at the hospital.

Still, Kaliniak stressed that the government continues to work.

“The ministries are working on all their duties, nothing is frozen or halted, the country goes on," he told reporters. “The state is stable and today the patient is stable as well.”

Fico has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. His return to power last year on a pro-Russian, anti-American platform led to worries among fellow European Union and NATO members that he would abandon his country’s pro-Western course, particularly on Ukraine.

Earlier Friday the man charged with attempting to assassinate Fico was escorted by police to his home. Local media reported that it was part of a search for evidence.

Markiza, a Slovak television station, showed footage of the suspect being taken to his home in the town of Levice on Friday morning, and reported that police had seized a computer and some documents. Police did not comment.

Prosecutors have told police not to publicly identify the suspect or release other details about the case. The suspect's detention will be reviewed at a hearing Saturday at Slovakia's Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok, outside the capital Bratislava.

Unconfirmed media reports suggested he was a 71-year-old retiree who was known as an amateur poet, and may have previously worked as a security guard at a mall in the country’s southwest.

Government authorities on Thursday gave details that matched that description. They said the suspect did not belong to any political groups, though the attack itself was politically motivated.

Slovakia’s presidential office said Friday that it was working to organize a meeting of leaders of all parliamentary parties for Tuesday. Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova announced the plan together with President-elect Peter Pellegrini, who succeeds her in mid-June, in an attempt to reduce social tensions in the country.

At the start of Russia’s invasion, Slovakia was one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, but Fico halted arms deliveries to Ukraine when he returned to power, his fourth time serving as prime minister.

Fico’s government has also made efforts to overhaul public broadcasting — a move critics said would give the government full control of public television and radio. That, coupled with his plans to amend the penal code to eliminate a special anti-graft prosecutor, have led opponents to worry that Fico will lead Slovakia down a more autocratic path.

Thousands of demonstrators have repeatedly rallied in the capital and around the country of 5.4 million to protest his policies.

Fico said last month on Facebook that he believed rising tensions in the country could lead to the murder of politicians, and he blamed the media for fueling tensions.

Before Fico returned to power last year, many of his political and business associates were the focus of police investigations, and dozens have been charged.

His plan to overhaul of the penal system would eliminate the office of the special prosecutor that deals with organized crime, corruption and extremism.



UK’s Nigel Farage Says the West Provoked Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

 Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
TT

UK’s Nigel Farage Says the West Provoked Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine

 Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)
Leader of Reform UK Nigel Farage delivers a speech at a hotel in Blackpool, northwestern England, on June 20, 2024, in the build-up to the UK general election on July 4. (AFP)

Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain's right-wing Reform UK party, said the eastward of expansion of the European Union and NATO had provoked Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The remarks, made in an interview with the BBC aired late on Friday, drew strong criticism across the British political spectrum ahead of a July 4 election in which Farage's party is predicted to win millions of votes.

Farage said he stood by comments made shortly after Moscow's February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, when he posted on social media that the move was a "consequence of EU and NATO expansion". He said he had been predicting a war in Ukraine as early as 2014.

"It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, 'They're coming for us again' and to go to war," Farage said in Friday's BBC interview.

"We provoked this war ... of course it's his (Putin's) fault - he's used what we've done as an excuse."

Russia casts its special military operation in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees. Kyiv and the West reject this and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

Farage's decades of campaigning against Britain's membership of the EU and mass immigration has made him one of the country's most recognizable and divisive politicians.

His surprise entry into the election race has further hit Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's hopes of closing the center-left Labour Party's opinion poll lead.

Even though Reform is unlikely to win many seats in parliament, it could split the right-of-center vote across the country. The party held only one seat in the last parliament, which it gained when a Conservative lawmaker defected.

Farage's remarks on Ukraine drew immediate condemnation.

Sunak said Farage was "completely wrong", accusing him of appeasement that put Britain and its allies' security at risk. Labour's defense spokesman John Healey called Farage's comments disgraceful and labelled him a "Putin apologist".

Farage later posted on X: "Putin was wrong to invade a sovereign nation, and the EU was wrong to expand eastward. The sooner we realize this, the closer we will be to ending the war and delivering peace."