Connect with us

Published

on

Robert Fico is a populist leader who staged a political comeback last year.

The 59-year-old has previously been compared to former US president Donald Trump.

But his election victory last autumn meant NATO also had another leader who was sympathetic to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Robert Fico in ‘life-threatening condition’ after assassination attempt – follow live updates

Critics have voiced increasing fears Mr Fico would abandon Slovakia’s pro-Western course.

This would echo some of the concerns raised about Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, another NATO member.

Thousands of people have repeatedly held protests across Slovakia against his policies.

More on Robert Fico

Mr Fico and his SMER, or Direction party, secured nearly 23% of the votes at the polls in October.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Slovak PM bundled into car after being shot

He is known for foul-mouthed tirades against journalists and has campaigned against immigration and LGBTQ+ rights.

The prime minister has previously opposed EU sanctions on Russia – and has been against Ukraine joining NATO.

Pic: AP
Rescue workers wheel Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was shot and injured, to a hospital in the town of Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico is in life-threatening condition after being wounded in a shooting Wednesday afternoon, according to his Facebook profile. (Jan Kroslak/TASR via AP)
Image:
Mr Fico was shot and injured on Wednesday. Pic: AP

He believes the US and other nations should use their influence to force Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal.

Mr Fico also repeated Mr Putin’s unsupported claim that the Ukrainian government runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians in the country need protection.

The politician founded the SMER party in 1999 and has served as the nation’s prime minister for over 10 years across three different spells.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Slovakian president-elect Peter Pellegrini called the apparent assassination attempt ‘a threat to everything that has adorned Slovak democracy so far’

Born to a working-class family, Mr Fico graduated with a law degree in 1986 and joined the then ruling Communist Party.

After the 1989 fall of communist rule, he worked as a government lawyer, won a seat in parliament under the renamed Communist Party, and represented Slovakia at the European Court For Human Rights.

With a campaign based on overturning austerity reforms, Mr Fico started his first four-year spell as the country’s leader in 2006.

He returned as leader in the parliamentary elections of 2012, but failed in an attempt to win the presidential election of 2014.

In 2016, despite winning the parliamentary polls, Mr Fico’s party was unable to secure a majority and after a multi-party coalition allowed him to remain as leader, he resigned in 2018.

As leader of the largest party following the October 2023 election, Mr Fico formed a coalition with Voice – Social Democracy (Hlas) and the Slovak National Party, and began his fourth term as prime minister.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

All three coalition parties are either leftist or nationalist and, having previously expressed anti-American views, he has spoken about what he called Western influence in Ukraine’s war which only led to Slavic nations killing each other.

His popularity among some, however, has been based on promises to protect the living standards of those left behind in a country where conditions for many are only slowly catching up with western Europe and where many hold relatively fond memories of a communist-era past.

Ukraine should make ‘compromise’

Earlier this year, Mr Fico reiterated his controversial belief Ukraine should give up territory to end the war with Russia.

In January, he told Slovak public broadcaster RTVS: “There has to be some kind of compromise.

“What do they expect, that the Russians will leave Crimea, Donbas and Luhansk? That’s unrealistic.”

In the same interview, he added Ukraine’s membership of NATO would “merely be a basis for World War Three” and Ukraine was “not an independent and sovereign country” which instead was under the “influence and control” of the US.

Protesters hold Slovak and European Union flags as demonstrators take part in a protest against government changes at public broadcaster RTVS in Bratislava, Slovakia, May 2, 2024. REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa
Image:
Protests were held in Bratislava this month over potential changes to broadcaster RTVS. Pic: Reuters

Protests against controversial changes to TV and radio

Two weeks ago, thousands of people demonstrated against his controversial overhaul of Slovakia’s radio and TV services.

Critics said it would result in the government taking full control of the media.

The proposed changes would mean the public broadcaster known as RTVS would cease to exist and be replaced by a new organisation.

“If Fico takes control of RTVS, it would mean a decisive step on the way towards Orban and Putin,” Michal Simecka, of the main opposition party Progressive Slovakia, told thousands of protesters in the capital Bratislava.

In April, Mr Fico refused to back the implementation of the EU’s new migration system in his country.

The bloc’s new pact set out new security and asylum procedures as well as proposed quotas.

He said: “We are saying unequivocally that you cannot order a country that it must accept, in the Slovak case, up to 300 migrants you know nothing about, or pay €20,000 per each.”

Continue Reading

World

Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

Published

on

By

Zelenskyy calls on Biden and Xi to join Ukraine peace summit

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has directly called on his US and Chinese counterparts to join his latest summit for peace in Ukraine.

Speaking from Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine on Friday, Mr Zelenskyy announced a “global peace summit”, co-hosted by Switzerland, starting on 15 June.

He claimed 80 countries have already confirmed their attendance.

But he said: “I am appealing to the global leaders of the world who are still outside the global efforts of the global peace summit.

“To President Biden, the leader of the United States, and to President Xi, the leader of China, we do not want the UN charter to be burned.

“Please show your leadership in advancing the peace.”

Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Residents evacuated from a building hit by strikes in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

He added that it must be “real peace – not just a pause in the strikes” after various ceasefire breaches by the Russians.

More on Ukraine

Finally, he urged: “The efforts of the global majority are the best guarantee that all commitments will be fulfilled.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Shopping mall hit by strike in Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Printworks and shopping centre targeted this week

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with a pre-war population of 1.5 million people, is close to the frontline, and has been consistently targeted since the initial invasion in February 2022.

On Thursday, its ‘Vivat’ printworks, which is the country’s largest, was hit by missiles, killing seven people, and destroying an estimated 50,000 books. A further 21 people were injured, Ukrainian officials said.

On Saturday, a strike on a shopping centre killed six people, injured 40, and left a further 16 unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Elsewhere in the city, an additional 11 people were injured as a result of strikes, including a 13-year-old boy.

Just over the border, in Russia’s Belgorod region, the regional governor there said four residents died as a result of Ukrainian attacks on Saturday.

Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Aftermath of Russian strike on Kharkiv on Saturday. Pic: Reuters

Read more
Crowded DIY stores hit by strikes
Ukrainians training without firing due to shortages
Putin thanks Xi for his Ukraine efforts

Mr Zelenskyy warned a new Russian offensive is being planned northwest of Kharkiv.

Ukrainians and military analysts have repeatedly warned of depleting weapon supplies on the frontline.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

Earlier this month the US agreed to a further $2bn (£1.6bn) in military support for Ukraine.

It has consistently resisted calls to send US troops there, in line with NATO’s refusal for direct involvement in the conflict.

China has resisted calls by NATO and its member states to take a direct stance against Russia in support of Ukraine.

President Xi hosted Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a show of “friendship” earlier this month.

Continue Reading

World

Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Published

on

By

Hamas launches first rocket attack on Israel from Gaza in months

Hamas has launched rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza for the first time in months.

The barrage of rockets set off air raid sirens in cities as far away as Tel Aviv.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in what appeared to be the first long-range rocket attack from Gaza since January, although Palestinian militants have continued to sporadically fire rockets and mortar rounds at communities along the Gaza border since then.

Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli military said eight projectiles crossed into Israel after being launched from the area of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where Israeli forces recently launched an incursion.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

Please refresh the page for the fullest version.

You can receive breaking news alerts on a smartphone or tablet via the Sky News app. You can also follow @SkyNews on X or subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with the latest news.

Continue Reading

World

India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after ‘chain of explosions’

Published

on

By

India: Newborn babies killed in fire at hospital in Delhi after 'chain of explosions'

At least six newborn babies have died after a fire broke out at a children’s hospital in India, according to reports.

Firefighters said they carried 12 newborns out of the centre in the Vivek Vihar district of east New Delhi late on Saturday night, but five of them died due to smoke inhalation.

Two other infants are believed to have already died, according to local media. There are differing reports as to whether six or seven infants have been killed so far.

Another five survived and are being treated in a nearby hospital, Delhi fire department chief Atul Garg said.

The blaze, which broke out on the first floor of the hospital, was put out after about an hour.

Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of a baby care center in New Delhi, India, Sunday, May 26, 2024. A fire broke out in the care center on Saturday night killing six infants, a fire service officer said on Sunday. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)
Image:
Burnt registration cards lie on the floor of the hospital. Pic: AP

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

Mr Garg told the ANI news agency that an oxygen cylinder blast was the likely cause of the fire, but there has been no official confirmation.

“It was a very tough operation,” he was quoted as saying by India Today.

More on India

“We made two teams. One team started firefighting because there was a blast of cylinders. We can say it was a chain of blasts of cylinders.

“We had to save ourselves also. We started rescue operations for babies as well. Unfortunately, we could not save all the children… That is a regrettable incident.”

The owner of the baby hospital has fled, according to Delhi police.

Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi’s chief minister, called the fire “heartbreaking”, adding that the “causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared”.

Machines move the debris following a fire in a gaming zone in Rajkot, in the western state of Gujarat, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Amit Dave
Image:
Machines move debris after a fire in Rajkot. Pic: Reuters

Earlier on Saturday, at least 27 people were killed in a fire at a crowded amusement park in the city of Rajkot in Gujarat state in western India.

Continue Reading

Trending