What do we know about Robert Fico's alleged shooter?

Police arrest a man after Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024.
Police arrest a man after Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot in the town of Handlova, Slovakia, Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Copyright Radovan Stoklasa/Tlacova agentura SR
Copyright Radovan Stoklasa/Tlacova agentura SR
By Tamsin PaternosterEuronews
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Slovakian media has identified the shooter as 71-year-old Juraj Cintula, a self-described writer who previously worked as a security guard and is allegedly linked to pro-Russian group Slovački branci.

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Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico is currently in hospital following a shooting that occurred following his cabinet's away-from-home session in the town of Handlova. 

Slovakian outlets have identified the shooter as the 71-year-old Juraj Cintula.

According to the daily newspaper Dennik N, the suspected perpetrator is a self-described writer from the small western town of Levice and a founding member of the Rainbow Literary Club. 

Hungarian investigative journalist Szabolcs Panyi has unearthed Facebook posts reportedly showing Cintula as a sympathiser and supporter of the pro-Russian paramilitary group Slovenskí Branci, known for its links to the Kremlin. 

Slovenskí Branci has been accused of attempting to recruit young men across Slovakia for its paramilitary organisation. In a post from January 2016, Cintula is seen holding a speech next to members of the group wearing camouflage.

In the accompanying text attributed to Cintula, he expressed extremist views in support of self-organised militias, who, according to him, should be allowed to protect "the inhabitants, the country, tradition, (and) culture" from migrants coming from outside of Europe.

Cintula has written three collections of poetry and published two novels titled The Message of Sacrifice in 2010 and Efata in 2015, according to his literary club's Facebook page. The latter is an overt attack against Slovakia's Roma community, in which he criticises the state and accuses the Roma of abusing social protections.

The Slovakian Writers' Association (SSS) has registered Cintula as a member since 2015 however, have since tried to distance themselves from his association posting in a statement, "We express our indignation at such a brutal act, which has no parallel in the history of Slovakia."

Cintula reportedly owned a gun license and previously worked as a security guard for a private security firm where he himself was the target of an attack in a shopping centre. 

Markíza TV station reported on a brief video showing the suspect, which was released shortly after his arrest. In the video, he says, "I don't agree with the government's policies. Why are the media being targeted? Why is RTVS under attack? Why was Mazák dismissed from his position?"

The assassination attempt is the first on a senior politician in the history of modern Slovakia, which gained independence in 1993. 

Rescue workers take 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.
Rescue workers take 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.Jan Kroslak/Tlacova agentura SR

Slovakia's General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka has vowed that the attacker would face "uncompromising" punishment from law enforcement. 

Allies of Fico have blamed "liberal media" for the attack, accusing journalists of creating an environment that promoted hatred for Robert Fico and his populist policies.  

Lubos Blaha, Slovakia's deputy parliament speaker and deputy chairman of Fico's Smer party has said, "For Smer, I want to sharply condemn what happened today in Handlova and at the same time express heavy disgust over what you have committed here in the past years".

"You, liberal media and political opposition. What hatred you spread against Robert Fico."

The country's largest opposition party, Progressive Slovakia, has called off a protest against Fico's government's controversial reform of the state-funded public broadcaster. The party leader, Michal Simecka, said the move was made to avoid an "escalation of tension".

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