Slovak PM Fico improving, attacker charged with attempted murder

Slovak Prime Minister and chairman of the Smer-SD party Robert Fico, center, last year was elected prime minister for a fourth time but was targeted by a would-be assassin Wednesday. Photo by Martin Divisek/EPA-EFE

May 18 (UPI) -- Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico remains in serious condition but with an improved prognosis reported Saturday.

Fico, 59, survived an assassination attempt by a gunman in Handlova, Slovakia, Wednesday.

Doctors say Fico is stable but remains in serious condition at a hospital in Banska Bystrica and won't be moved to Bratislava for at least a couple more days.

A second surgical procedure lasted two hours on Friday, health Minister Zuzana Dolinkova told reporters.

He suffered four bullet wounds to his stomach and arm when the gunman shot him at close range while Fico met with his supporters.

Although hospitalized, Fico remains the acting prime minister.

The gunman is identified as Juraj Cintula, a 71-year-old man from Levice.

He was charged with attempted murder during an arraignment hearing Saturday and remains in custody until his trial.

The gunman acted alone in the politically motivated attack and recently participated in anti-government protests, Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok told media Thursday.

Deputy Prime Minister Tomas Taraba blamed the opposition and Slovakian news outlet Dennik N for stirring hatred against Fico and others.

Fico has been a controversial political figure in Slovakia for many years and returned to power last year on a pro-Russian and anti-United States platform.

Slovakia supported Ukraine when Russia invaded it two years ago, but Fico halted arms shipments to Ukraine after regaining power last year.

Last year's election win made it the fourth time Fico has served as Slovakia's prime minister.