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Slovakia's prime minister delivers first public remarks since assassination attempt: "I forgive him"

Suspect charged in Fico shooting
Suspect charged in Slovakia's Robert Fico shooting 04:20

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico delivered his first public remarks since an assassination attempt last month left him in a life-threatening condition.

In a 14-minute speech posted on his Facebook page Wednesday, Fico, 59, said he feels "no hatred" toward his would-be assassin, who he said was neither "some madman" nor acting alone. "I forgive him," Fico said, adding that "he was only a messenger of evil and political hatred, which the politically unsuccessful and frustrated opposition developed in Slovakia to unmanageable proportions."

The prime minister suggested his pro-Russia, anti-NATO and anti-U.S. stances had made him a target. Fico ended his country's military aid for Ukraine after his coalition government was sworn in on Oct. 25. He also opposes EU sanctions on Russia and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO.

Prime Minister Robert Fico seen delivering a speech posted on Facebook on June 5, 2024. SMER/Robert Fico via Facebook

"The opposition abuses how large democracies enforce a single mandatory opinion on major foreign policy issues and reject the sovereign positions of small countries," Fico said, referring to the opposition party Progressive Slovakia, a pro-Western liberal party with which Fico's own leftist Smer (Direction) party is in a close race to win the European Parliament election.

Fico said that though his party won the country's parliamentary elections on September 30, there was, since his assassination attempt, "no one holding up a mirror to the growing and well-fed opposition's aggressiveness, neither the media, nor the non-governmental organizations, nor the head of state, nor Brussels, nor NATO."

Fico was shot multiple times on May 15 as he emerged from a government meeting in the town of Handlova, about 90 miles northeast of the capital Bratislava, shocking the small country and reverberating across Europe. The 71-year-old suspect was tackled to the ground and arrested.

Shooting incident of Slovak PM Robert Fico after Slovak government meeting in Handlova
A person is detained after a shooting incident in which Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was injured after a meeting in Handlova, Slovakia, May 15, 2024. Radovan Stoklasa/REUTERS

Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok in May said that an initial investigation found "a clear political motivation" behind the attack, though it appeared the suspect charged was a lone wolf who "did not belong to any political groups."

Two days after the shooting, Health Minister Zuzana Dolinkova said Fico had undergone two hours of surgery to remove dead tissue from multiple gunshot wounds. Defense Minister Robert Kalinak at the time said that "several miracles" had occurred at the hands of Fico's medical team.

In Wednesday's speech, Fico, speaking steadily, said he might be able to gradually return to work in June or July. 

"I would like to express my belief that all the pain I have gone through and am still going through will serve something good," he said near the end of his speech. "People could see with their own eyes what horror can happen if someone is not able to democratically compete and respect other opinion."

—The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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