Updated 8.56pm.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico was battling life-threatening wounds Wednesday after he was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt condemned by European leaders.

Dramatic footage from the scene in central Slovakia showed security agents grabbing a wounded Fico from the ground and hustling him into a black car that sped away as police handcuffed a person on the pavement.

Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a life-threatening condition after the shooting. File photo: AFPSlovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico is in a life-threatening condition after the shooting. File photo: AFP

Police detained the suspected gunman at the site of the attack in Handlova, outgoing Slovak President Zuzana Caputova told reporters after the unprecedented act of violence against a Slovak prime minister. 

"I am shocked, we are all shocked by the terrible and heinous attack," she added.

Fico was shot multiple times, said a post on his official Facebook page.

"Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt" on Fico, the government said, adding he was flown to hospital "in a life-threatening condition".

Images from public television RTVS showed a person on a stretcher taken out of a helicopter by medics and wheeled into a hospital. 

Handlova local hospital director Marta Eckhardtova said "Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic". 

She was unable to describe his injuries.

The Dennik N daily reported that Fico was still in the operating room after being taken to the hospital before 4pm.

Fico, whose Smer-SD party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and a political veteran accused of swaying his country's foreign policy in favour of the Kremlin.

Suspected gunman is a 71-year-old writer

Local media reported that the suspected gunman was a 71-year-old writer, but police have not named any suspects.

"I have absolutely no idea what father was thinking, what he was planning, why it happened," the alleged suspect's son told Slovak news site aktuality.sk.

The suspected gunman (centre on the ground) after being apprehended. Photo: AFPThe suspected gunman (centre on the ground) after being apprehended. Photo: AFP

Analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP "there has been no (previous) attack on any minister or prime minister in Slovakia." 

"I only remember the case of former minister of economy Jan Ducky who was shot dead in 1999," he added. "But he had not been politically active anymore when he was killed."

Slovak president-elect and Fico ally Peter Pellegrini said he learned of the shooting "with horror". 

"An assassination attempt on one of the highest constitutional officials is an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy," he added on X, formerly Twitter. 

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen denounced the "vile attack" while NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he was "shocked and appalled". 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the "appalling" shooting and wished Fico a speedy recovery.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the shooting a "heinous crime".

"I know Robert Fico to be a courageous and strong-spirited man. I very much hope that these qualities will help him to withstand this difficult situation," Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

As well as his current stint as premier, Fico also headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

Since he assumed office last October, Fico has made a string of remarks that have soured ties between Slovakia and neighbouring Ukraine.

He has notably questioned Ukraine's sovereignty and called for a compromise with Russia, which invaded in 2022.

After he was elected, Slovakia stopped sending weapons to Ukraine. He pledged during the electoral campaign not to provide Kyiv with "a single bullet". 

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public television and radio.

At a press conference following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico's party lashed out against his critics.

"You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred," Blaha said.  


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