Robert Fico: Slovakia prime minister in life-threatening condition after being shot multiple times

Slovakia's prime minister is fighting for his life and undergoing surgery after being shot multiple times.

Robert Fico was airlifted to hospital and a suspect, reported to be 71 years old, was detained at the scene.

The shooting happened on Wednesday afternoon in Handlova, about 85 miles (136km) from the capital Bratislava, after a meeting at a cultural centre.

Follow live: Slovak prime minister in 'life-threatening condition'

Slovakia's interior minister said there was a "clear political motivation" behind the attack, while local TV said Mr Fico was hit in the stomach.

The 59-year-old was taken to a local hospital and then flown to a larger facility in Banska Bystrica.

"The next few hours will decide," said a post on Mr Fico's Facebook page.

The prime minister was still in surgery on Wednesday evening, said the country's defence minister, who described his condition as "extraordinarily serious".

Interior minister Matus Sutaj-Estok told reporters outside the hospital that the gunman had fired five shots.

Two witnesses told local news outlet Diary N about the moment the shooting happened.

"I was just going to shake his hand," said one.

"When the shots rang out, I almost became deaf," said the other, who did not want to give her name.

She said there were three or four shots and that Mr Fico fell to the floor with blood on his chest and head.

Other witnesses said the gunman used a friendly nickname to call out to the prime minister as he approached a crowd of supporters.

Slovak media said he was a former security guard and an author of poetry collections.

World leaders - including Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden - have been quick to condemn the shooting.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called it a "vile attack", while Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said it was "shocking".

"News of the cowardly assassination attempt on Slovakian Prime Minister Fico shocks me deeply," said German leader Olaf Scholz.

"Violence must have no place in European politics."

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk posted on X: "Shocking news from Slovakia. Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment."

Mr Fico is a three-time premier in Slovakia and a stalwart of the country's political scene.

However, he is a divisive figure, with many critical of his more sympathetic stance towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and views on LGBTQ rights.

He won elections in September after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message.

President Putin said Mr Fico's shooting was a "monstrous" crime with "no justification".

In a Telegram post, he wished him "a speedy and full recovery", adding: "I know Robert Fico as a courageous and strong-minded man.

"I very much hope that these qualities will help him to survive this difficult situation."

US President Joe Biden said his thoughts were "with his (Fico's) family and the people of Slovakia".

"We condemn this horrific act of violence. Our embassy is in close touch with the government of Slovakia and ready to assist," said a statement.