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Slovakia Prime Minister Assassination Attempt; Blinken Announces $2 Billion Military Financing for Ukraine; U.S. Economy; Aired 10-11a ET

Aired May 15, 2024 - 10:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is CONNECT THE WORLD with Becky Anderson.

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Welcome to what is our second hour of CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi, where the time is 6


Some breaking news in the last hour, Slovakia's prime minister, Robert Fico, has been shot at after a government meeting. And we will be

monitoring the story and bring you more in just a few moments.

First up, the other headlines this hour. Russia's new offensive in Kharkiv gathers pace as more and more Ukrainian villages fall amid heavy fighting.

That is, as U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken says weapons and ammunition are being rushed to the front lines.

War also intensifying here in the Middle East. The IDF has hit a refugee camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip, saying it killed 10 Hamas militants

in the process after targeting a, quote, "war room" inside a U.N.-operated school, they say.

And a manhunt is underway in France for the gunman who ambushed a prison convoy, freeing an inmate and killing two guards in the process.


ANDERSON: Breaking news, reaction has begun pouring in after reports that Slovakia's prime minister, Robert Fico, was shot at after a government

offsite meeting. Prime Minister Fico's condition was not immediately known.

The Slovak president has condemned what he calls a brutal and reckless attack. CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, covering the

very latest for us.

Nic, what have you learned?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we've been able to look at more of video that's on social media, that shows the aftermath of the

attack. We can identify the location because we've seen some of these images from different angles before. But this is a new image.

And what you can see in this image is someone who appears to be the prime minister, being sort of lift-carried, raced and run several yards into his

waiting vehicle by security services. Those men you can see the center of the picture there.

We have video from -- taken, I would say, from the left of the image, you're looking at there, that would show some of those security officials

picking up a man and moving him. You can see his legs sort of working underneath him. But he is clearly not moving under his own motion.

He is clearly being held by the security services. And then we understand he was taken to the hospital in this town. And you're seeing images of the

hospital there.

And we've now been hearing -- and this is being reported by Reuters, quoting the hospital spokesperson at the hospital, the prime minister was

initially taken to. And they say that he arrived there conscious, that they have stabilized his wounds -- and they say wounds, gunshot wounds.

And they say that he has now been traveled to a -- transferred to a higher level facility. And we understand he is being taken to that higher level

facility by an air ambulance. A helicopter has been dispatched by the main medical services in Slovakia.

And he is being taken. Now we don't know where he is being taken but to a higher level medical service. So conscious when he arrived at the hospital;

injuries stabilized and then transferred on for higher level care.

We can't read too much into that but, again, I think it would be likely if he were at a hospital and he was in a desperate condition. They probably

would have tried to provide longer-term service.

But the fact that this has happened very quickly and moved out to higher level care, again, we don't know what this means. I mean, stabilize can

mean many, many different things.

But conscious, I think, is the key there, conscious when he arrived.

ANDERSON: Let's just have a look at the images again that we have cleared here at CNN. And we're pushing to clear more of the scene, of course.

The Slovak president has condemned what he calls "a brutal and reckless act." Let's just bring up the image again.

And for purposes of those who have, may have just joined us, Nic, just enlighten us on what we are looking at here.


ROBERTSON: Yes, a very experienced prime minister, Robert Fico. Been prime minister 2006 to 2010, 2012 to 2018; leads a leftist populist party that

has been seen as sympathetic toward Vladimir Putin, opposed to the European Union and NATO sending troops, sending weapons and military support to


Softened his position when he came into office late last year, September, with the elections. He came into office in October, he won 79 out of 150

seats in the parliament. But this is completely out of the ordinary.

He was at an offsite government meeting in Handlova, about two hours' drive northeast of Bratislava, the capital. We don't know if he's been

transferred to the capital. We don't know who else was in that meeting. We don't know who the gunman was.

He is someone who has quite strong views on issues like immigration and these types of issues. Again, we don't have any clues. We do know, however,

that the assailant or the person who appeared to be the assailant was knocked to the ground, bundled to the ground by security officials who we'd

seen the video.

Kneeling on the assailant and restraining him. But those few details coming from the nearby hospital in Handlova, from the spokesperson.

ANDERSON: And just to be absolutely clear, the images that you saw there, the video of the Slovak prime minister Fico were just moments before the

shooting incident. He was speaking at a press conference just moments before he was shot and injured.

More from Nic as we get it.

Nic, thank you.

Well, in what could shape up to be a pivotal battle in Ukraine, Russian forces appear to be pushing further south into the Kharkiv region. The U.S.

is rushing weapons to the front lines, according to the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who also announced new military funding.

That help is desperately needed. Ukraine is repositioning forces in Kharkiv as Russia tries to build on its momentum from last week's offensive.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy meantime is putting foreign travel on a hold to deal with the crisis.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen has reported extensively, of course, on the ground in Ukraine these past couple of years and, indeed, before that. He joins us

from Berlin.

And Fred, this is a critical point in the war. Clearly Ukraine needs all the help it can get. And Antony Blinken there to at least reassure them

that help is on the way.

What are they looking for and how might this reassurance help at this point?

When can they expect to see the sort of weapons they need to get on the front foot at this point?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think first of all, it is going to be very difficult for the Ukrainians because

of the hole that they've been in, by the fact that some of that U.S. military aid has been delayed for such a very long time. So that's

certainly going to take a little bit of time.

And I think that's also something that the U.S. secretary of state, Antony Blinken, acknowledged in some of the meetings that he had in Ukraine, of

course, first and foremost with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, where he said, look, there's a bottleneck, quite frankly,

especially as far as ammunition is concerned.

And that really is the key thing for the Ukrainians right now, is to get their hands on especially 155 millimeter artillery ammunition as fast as

possible. the U.S. say, it's sending it as quickly as possible.

But they also acknowledge that, of course, all of this takes time. The front lines in Ukraine are very long. There's several big battlefields out

there. And now an additional one in the Kharkiv region, where the Ukrainians are having to redeploy forces from other front lines to try and

help out there.

Of course, stretching them thinner in some of the places where they are already facing that Russian onslaught. So right now for the Ukrainians,

extremely difficult; 155 millimeter artillery ammunition is what they're looking for, rocket artillery ammunition as well.

But one of the things that the Ukrainians have said again and again -- and the secretary of state acknowledged today -- is surface to air missiles. I

think right now that's extremely important for the Ukrainians.

And if we look at some of the gains that the Russians have said that they've been making, especially in the Kharkiv region, the Ukrainians are

saying, right now, they're getting absolutely pounded by Russia's air force, using those aerial glide bombs that the Russians can drop from

fairly far away from the front lines.

And Ukrainians are saying they need more long-range surface to air capabilities to be able to keep those jets away and possibly take those

jets down. Right now, that's a big need for the Ukrainians.

And it seems as though they're not going to get those, at least in the very near term future. But they say that, for them, that is really one of the

keys to not only surviving but trying to turn things around.


ANDERSON: Good to have you, Fred, thank you.

Well, to the war in Gaza and Israel's military intensifying operations in the north and in parts of Rafah in the south. The video you are about to

see does contain some disturbing images.


ANDERSON (voice-over): It is the aftermath of an Israeli attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp. The IDF says it targeted what it calls a war room

operating inside a U.N.-operated school, killing more than 10 militants.

Gaza health officials say, 3 dozen Palestinian civilians were killed in strikes in the area. Half of them they say, were children.

Well, this increased activity is happening as the United Nations says 450,000 displaced Palestinians, nearly 0.5 million, that Israel ordered to

leave Rafah are now located in areas that lack shelter, water and proper plumbing.

Well, in Washington, the Biden administration has started what could be a lengthy process to get congressional approval for a new $1 billion arms

deal for Israel after President Biden, of course, paused a shipment of large bombs due to their use in densely populated areas of Gaza.

And his concern about them being used on population centers in Rafah.

Will still to come, a key economic report out this morning provides a hint of hope for American consumers. How might a bullish stock market respond.

Details on that are right ahead.

Plus, Interpol has put out a red notice for this escaped prison inmate in France. A report on the manhunt for him is later this hour.




ANDERSON: Well, breaking news. We have learned Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico has been shot.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, covering the very latest for us and back with us.

Now you've been working your sources, Nic.

What do we know?

ROBERTSON: Yes, this is an official update from the prime minister's official Facebook page.

This attack on him is being described as an assassination attempt. They say he was shot multiple times and that he is in a life-threatening condition,

a life-threatening condition.

We know that he was taken to one hospital, stabilized and transferred to another hospital. The level and scope of this particular attack perhaps

looks more dire than those initial images we saw, where the prime minister was sort of being bundled and carried, sort of half-walking, stumbling into

his vehicle.


Taken to a hospital, transferred to an ambulance by somewhere, thinking about first hospital, transferred by an ambulance under police escort to,

was we understand that on a waiting helicopter to take him for this higher level treatment.

That the first hospital said they had stabilized his conditions but now we understand this is a very severe situation, an assassination attempt. The

prime minister shot multiple times and is in a life-threatening condition at the moment.

ANDERSON: Who is Robert Fico and what's his background?

ROBERTSON: Yes. He's a very experienced politician, a populist on the left of politics as well, he'd been prime minister 2006, 2010; prime minister

again, 2012 2018.

He's someone who has an affinity for Vladimir Putin, has always sort of sounded very sort of against the arming of Ukraine, is -- has had tough

lines to say about immigration and also about Muslims in general.

This is a figure who's not without controversy, either, broadly politically in the European Union. You have prime ministers like Mark Rutte; you have

Ursula van der Leyen, immediately, very quickly coming out to wish him well and saying that this was a terrible and shocking attack.

So he is not without friends in the European political spectrum. But he is something of an outlier because he has courted the populist vote. He has

been closer to Putin than he has to some of his European allies and has been against sending weapons to Ukraine.

But when he won the elections in September last year, it was not -- was not a -- it was not by a small margin, not massive, it's 150-seat parliament.

He won by 79 votes.

He cobbled together a coalition, involving -- and I think this was sort of talked about a lot at the time -- that it involved some sort of quite right

wing elements at the time, as well as sort of more centrist politicians as well.

But he's, as I say, something of a political outlier in the European spectrum. But this is something that is not usual. I mean, this goes

without saying, it's not usual within Slovak that politics for politicians, never mind the prime minister, to be shot as he -- as he leaves a meeting.

But for the nation, this is a very shocking situation. We've heard from the president, we've heard from the vice president as well, both talking about

the shock, about wishing the prime minister well.

And it seems to be at the moment, until we get a further medical update and a better analysis of a situation, this is potentially a life and death

situation, these minutes we're living in right now for the Slovak prime minister. It's a life-threatening condition.

Hit multiple times. It appears to have been a single assailant. We don't know if he was shot with a handgun, with an automatic weapon, what type of

automatic weapon, how close, how many bullets.

But the video you see the prime minister being sort of manhandled, bundled into his waiting black limousine there, is -- you can sort of see the --

his feet moving at the bottom of the picture.

But it's very clear that the heavy lifting is being done by a security detail, literally bundling him and then to that -- to that waiting car to

be rushed away to hospital.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson is on the breaking news this hour. Robert Fico, the Slovakian prime minister, is in a life-threatening condition after

being shot in what is being described by state media as an assassination attempt. More on his condition and what happened as we get it.

Thank you, Nic.

A key economic report released this morning in the U.S. shows inflation there slowed in April. The latest Consumer Price Index reading providing a

hint of hope for Americans, worn down by elevated prices. The CPI rose 0.3 percent on a monthly basis in April.

That is slightly less than forecast. The index of course, measures what consumers pay for a variety of goods and services. CNN's Matt Egan joins us


Take us through these new inflation figures if you will.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: It's been a frustrating year on the inflation front. But finally, we're getting some evidence that inflation

is, once again, going in the right direction.


As you mentioned, prices up by 0.3 percent month over month, cooler than expected and an improvement from the month before, year-over-year 3.4

percent. That was exactly in line. But it is an improvement from the month before.

And we are seeing that, if you look at the trend, you can see that prices are no longer skyrocketing like they were two years ago. The progress has

sort of leveled out. It's been a little stubborn here.

But if you really zoom in, you can see that it's starting to tick lower again toward that 2 percent target that the Fed is so focused on. Now we

did get some good news when you dig into this report in terms of some of the categories, because we saw that food prices, they were flat for the


Grocery prices were actually down. We also saw prices drop between March and April for other things like new cars, used cars, airfare and furniture.

So that's all good. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, this was at the lowest annual rate in exactly three years.

And this is all being applauded by investors on Wall Street, where we've seen the U.S. stock market move higher, the Dow creeping closer, about 300

points away from that 40,000 level. Investors are certainly hoping that this moves the Fed in the direction of starting to cut interest rates.

I just looked a few minutes ago and the market is pricing in about a 70 percent chance that the Fed cuts interest rates at least once by that

September meeting. That is the final meeting before the U.S. election. So that a slightly higher chance then a few hours ago.

But again, the Fed has made clear that they don't yet have competence, that inflation is definitely going back to 2 percent for them to start lowering

interest rates.

ANDERSON: Always good to have you. You've got a good read on CNN Digital, the title is this, folks, and you should I have a look at this thing.

"Think corporate greed is the leading cause of inflation?"

There are those out there who believe that. Well, Matt says, think again. More on that at CNN Digital. Thank you, sir.

We will be right back.





ANDERSON: Right, welcome back.

You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. Time here in Abu Dhabi is 6:25 and we are back with breaking news.

Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico was shot a short time ago after a government meeting.


ANDERSON (voice-over): This CNN affiliate video shows an ambulance rushing away from the scene and. In a statement on his official Facebook page, it

says there was an assassination attempt on Robert Fico, that he was shot multiple times and that he is currently in a life-threatening condition.


ANDERSON: CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, covering the very latest for us.

ROBERTSON: Becky, the latest we've got it is the reason he was transferred so quickly to another medical facility, he was in the town of Handlova, two

hours from the capital, two hours from Bratislava, which is where you'd normally expect government meetings to be, which is what he was attending


Rather than transfer him to Bratislava, which was just decided it was too far away, even by helicopter, they transferred him to Banska Bystrica,

which is about probably 30 kilometers away. So a pretty fast journey in a helicopter.

The fact that the medical services have on passed him to this high a level facility and didn't try and on pass him to a facility in the capital, does

seem to indicate just how dire his condition may be; life-threatening is what we're being told.

But this does -- this seems to be a pretty dark picture of what is happening here, emerging, Becky, I mean, he came out of the meeting about

2:30 in the afternoon local time there in Handlova in Slovakia. He appears to have been shot right outside that building. And you see the assailant

tackled to the ground.

And as the assailant is lying there on the floor and the prime minister, we've seen another video, being sort of hand -- manhandled into that black

vehicle there by security services, to get him away, I mean, all this transpired in a very small space.

And we're told it was multiple gunshots. So it really creates an impression, particularly if there's only one person hurt, injured and there

are multiple gunshots. It does seem to imply that the gunman was able to get very close to the prime minister, to pull the trigger.

And perhaps that gives us part of the understanding of why he is still right now in this life-threatening condition but rushed away in that black

limousine, initially transferred to an ambulance somewhere. Where, we don't know. Then taken to the local hospital in Handlova.

They say that he was conscious. They say that he was conscious when he arrived at that first hospital, that they stabilized his injuries and then

transferred him to the higher level facility, which is about 30 kilometers away by helicopter, which is where we understand he is now.

And his official Facebook page very clearly saying an assassination attempt, multiple gunshots and in a life-threatening condition.

ANDERSON: Was it clear what he was doing in Handlova?

I mean, it's been described as an offsite government meeting. We've got some video of the prime minister just in a press conference, just moments

before this assassination attempt is being described by state media.

ROBERTSON: These are the details were we're trying to get a hold of. We know that it was reported earlier in the day that the Slovak government was

debating possible -- possibly deciding to build a new nuclear power facility. But there's no indication that we have so far, that these two

things are directly connected.


I think when we can hear and get a full translation and better understand the scope of what the prime minister is saying and why he was saying it in

that press conference, then we can get a better understanding potentially of what the motivation might be.

But again, the motivation here could be entirely unrelated to that meeting. It could be quite simply that he was outside of a normally, potentially --

and I say this potentially because we don't have the information yet -- more secure and delineated security bubble that he would have expected in

the capital in Bratislava.

But here, two hours outside of the capital, this is where -- again, we don't know how much this event was publicized in advance by the assailant

may have chosen to attack him there, you, get into the realm of speculation. So I think we're going to hold on that, Becky, until we get

more details.


Yes. What we can do is just bring our viewers exactly what we have coming in to CNN. As I understand it from my producers in my ear, we have got

another image that's been cleared. And this, as I understand it, is of the arrest of the assailant. Let's just bring our viewers up to date on what we

do know here at CNN.

Slovakia's prime minister has been shot multiple times in what is being described as an assassination attempt by state media. His condition is


And Nic, the latest images coming in to us here, I'm assuming that you've got a monitor so you can see what we are looking at here.

ROBERTSON: Yes, This appears that we're looking at the scene after the event. What we could see around the location -- you can still see some of

them there -- the assassination attempt came -- we're -- now we're seeing it center screen but we're seeing that person being arrested.

But appeared to come from within that small sort of temporary, portable security barrier that had been erected there. So there was clearly some

level of security protecting the prime minister, protecting -- protecting other people.

But the fact that the attacker appears to be, from what we know at the moment, on the inside of that security cordon, does seem to indicate that

they were able to get around the edge of it somehow.

This is -- again, this is not the capital, not the normal place where the prime minister holds government meetings but about two hours' drive

northeast of the capital in a city called Handlova. Again, we don't know what the event was about and why he was there but clearly some security

precautions had been taken and put in place.

ANDERSON: Nic, just remind us who Robert Fico is, how long he's been in politics and what his sort of political bent is.

ROBERTSON: Yes, a longtime politician, a previous prime minister, prime minister 2006, 2010, 2012, 2018; left-wing but populist. He -- and he was

populist in part for advocating his support for President Putin.

He was populist in part for being tough on immigration. He was populist in part for saying that he didn't want to provide military support to Ukraine.

Now these are views that he sort of moderated when he was reelected in September 2023, 79 seats; his party garnered, out of 150 in the parliament.

And his governing where the coalition that involves more centrist parties but also involves some pretty right-wing elements. And that, at the time of

his election and his positions on Russia gave a lot of European politicians and analysts cause for concern.

But he did seem to sort of moderate some of his more pro-Putin, anti- Ukraine rhetoric once elected. So he's a politician with a long track record but also clearly somebody who, on the popular side -- if you're

popular on one side, you can certainly be divisive on the other side of the aisle.

ANDERSON: Nic, I'm going to take a short break but I want to stay on this.

We will continue to follow the breaking news out of Slovakia. Let's take a very quick break. Back after this.





ANDERSON: I'm Becky Anderson. Our breaking news this hour.

We are following what Slovakia's prime minister's team is calling an assassination attempt. In a statement, Robert Fico's official Facebook page

says Fico was shot multiple times and is currently in a life-threatening condition.

Jens Stoltenberg tweeted on X, "Shocked and appalled by the shooting of prime minister Robert Fico. I wish him strength for a speedy recovery. My

thoughts are with Robert Fico, his loved ones and the people of Slovakia."

And Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the following, "The attack on Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico is appalling. We strongly condemn this act of violence

against our neighboring partner state's head of government.

"Every effort should be made to ensure that violence does not become the norm in any country, form or sphere. We sincerely hope Robert Fico recovers

soon and express our solidarity with the people of Slovakia."

Let's get you an update and what we understand to be the prime minister's condition. CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, back with


ROBERTSON: Yes, life-threatening condition, multiple gunshot wounds, an assassination attempt is how it's being described. Now when the prime

minister was shot, he was really quickly bundled away into his waiting limousine by his security services.

And you can see at that stage, this is somebody who's incapacitated beneath the burly arms and bodies of his security team, you can see a pair of legs

sort of dragging along the ground as they're trying to lift him into that black vehicle.

You can see on the screen that taken to the local hospital, transferred in an ambulance on the way there. Now when he got to the hospital, a

spokeswoman there said that he was conscious. So he seemed to get there pretty quickly conscious and that they stabilized his injuries.

She said that he had received multiple gunshot injuries and then he was transferred by hospital, which is to another hospital, a higher level

facility, which is where he is now. That's what we understand. Taken by helicopter, which we believe to be perhaps about a 15-minute helicopter

ride, about 30 kilometers away across country.

So he's being treated there. But the prognosis at the moment, we don't have an update since the latest statement within the last 20 or 30 minutes,

which says that it is a life-threatening condition.

But multiple gunshots, there was a single assailant, who appeared to be on the wrong side of a security barrier; i.e. the side of the security barrier

that he shouldn't have been on.

The indications here potentially that this assailant with the gun -- and we don't know what sort of gun, whether it was an automatic weapon or a

handgun -- firing single shots, multiple shots. What caliber we don't know.

But he does appear to have been very close to the prime minister. That's the assailant you're looking at there lying on the ground, being restrained

by security services. So this happened very quickly after a government meeting. The gunman appearing to be very close to the prime minister when

he takes a shot.


The prime minister quickly transferred to a nearby hospital and then to a higher level facility, where his condition is life-threatening right now.

ANDERSON: Yes. And just to follow on from what you have been reporting -- and this according to the prime minister's team -- they've got him to this

hospital, which is -- which is not in the capital. They say, due to the necessity of an acute intervention, the next few hours, they say, will be


So Nic, the president-elect, Peter Pellegrini, tweeting this -- or this is what he posted on X.

"An assassination attempt on the prime minister is a threat to everything that has adorned Slovak democracy so far. With horror, I received the

information that prime minister Robert Fico became the target of an assassination attempt after a government meeting in Handlova.

"And during a meeting with people, he suffered gunshot wounds following the attack. I am horrified by where the hatred toward another political opinion

can lead. We don't have to agree on everything but there are plenty of ways to express our disagreement democratically and legally.

"An assassination attempt on one of the highest constitutional officials is an unprecedented threat to Slovak democracy. If we express different

political opinions with guns in the squares and not in polling stations, we endanger everything we have built together in 31 years of Slovak


"I wish the prime minister a swift recovery and healing. And I earnestly hope that such senseless and brutal acts become the subject of universal


That the president-elect in Slovakia.

And there is a suggestion there, Nic, in Pellegrini's statement, that this is not just an assassination attempt but from somebody who had a

disagreement with the prime minister politically, views that clearly the president's assailant did not share with the prime minister.

That isn't something we can stand up at this point.

We don't know who the attacker is nor why he shot the prime minister at this point, correct?

ROBERTSON: Correct. And I think what we're hearing very eloquently, succinctly, politically, delicately, even if you will, by the president

there, is an expression of shock. I think, for Slovaks, I mean, the shock of their prime minister being gunned down in this way is going to be huge.

And for many of them, they'll have been learning about it over the past hour or so as we have. The details have gone from bad to worse to

absolutely dire. So this is a situation I think where you're going to find, over the coming hours, a country in a state of shock.

And, of course, everyone will be hoping that this state of shock doesn't turn to a state of grief, that the prime minister pulls through. And this

is what we're, what we're waiting to hear about.

But for the president to say this very clearly, he is concerned. He's concerned about what this augurs or could augur if it's not stamped out

immediately. Again, we wait to get details.

Look, the police have the attacker. They will know, by now, his name. They will probably have an idea and a sense of his motivation. There are a few

other things they may know about him because, we know in these situations, they'll go to his house. They'll look at his social media feeds. They'll

see what has been saying publicly.

They'll say what it -- try to find out what he has been saying privately. And they will try to find out as much as they can about him. So I think by

now we can reasonably assume that at least the security services will have a good bead on why this attack happened. We don't know it yet.

ANDERSON: Slovakia, the official name, of course, the Slovak Republic, landlocked in central Europe, bordered by Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Austria

and the Czech Republic.

That prime minister there, Robert Fico, has been shot in what is being described as an assassination attempt. What we understand from his team and

state media is that he is in a life-threatening condition. We are getting more images of the scene where he was shot multiple times.


We are working to get more information on what happened, how he is and we will stay with this breaking news out of Slovakia. Back after this short





ANDERSON: Well, your breaking news this hour, Slovakia's prime minister Robert Fico has been shot in what his team says is an assassination


In his statement on his official Facebook page says that Fico was shot multiple times, is currently in a life-threatening condition and that,

quote, "the next few hours will be decisive."

There is an awful lot of reaction to this coming in, this assassination attempt on the Slovak prime minister.

Slovak Republic president has posted this on X, "Utterly shocked by today's brutal attack on Slovakia's prime minister, which I condemn in the

strongest possible terms. I wish him strength in this critical moment and early recovery. My thoughts are also with his family and close ones."

And this from the prime minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, "Deeply shocked," she says, "by the assassination attempt of Slovakia's prime minister,

Robert Fico. An attack against an elected leader is also an attack against the very idea of democracy.

"I wish him a full and speedy recovery. My thoughts are with his family and his loved ones."

And the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said, and I quote, "Shocked to hear this awful news. All our thoughts are with Prime Minister Fico and his


As we are saying, this is a man who has been in politics for a very long time. In fact, this is the prime minister's third term in office,

stretching over a span of some 20 years.


ANDERSON (voice-over): The image you're looking at here is one of the first images that we got in to CNN. And on the right-hand side of that

image, you see the car into which the primary minister was bundled. He is about two hours, at this point, away from Bratislava, the capital, at what

was being described as an offsite government meeting.


And you see to the top left of your screen there, let's just left the screener to the top left, the alleged assailant, as we understand it, being

held down and we have some further images that I'll get for you now as CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is back with us.

And Nic, again, for those who may just be joining us -- and I'm sure those who are -- have been with us for a period of time now -- will forgive us if

we just step back for a moment and remind our viewers what we understand at 10 to the hour.

ROBERTSON: Yes, the prime minister had been having an offsite government meeting about two hours outside the capital. And he held a press

conference. Shortly after he stepped outside of that meeting in Handlova -- and you can see those black salute (ph) vehicles there that were waiting

outside to pick him up.

But before he could reach the vehicles, it appears as if a single assailant approached him and was able to get close to him, close enough to fire

multiple gunshots before the assailant was wrestled to the ground.

And as the assailant -- you see in some of the images here, top-left or that one there, the assailant has been wrestled to the ground. What you can

see that secure -- those security people getting into that black vehicle there, where they've just bundled the prime minister into that vehicle.

And video we've seen, you can see the prime minister's legs are barely moving. So from there, he goes immediately to the nearby hospital. There

they say that he was conscious, the prime minister was conscious when he arrived, that he had multiple wounds, that they gave him life stabilizing


Rushed him away in an ambulance to a waiting helicopter, flew him, we estimate, about 15 minutes or so to a higher-level medical facility there.

The details on his medical conditions sort of dry up from medical personnel.

But we get information now from government channels, who are calling it an assassination attempt, who are saying this was multiple gunshots and that

he is in a life-threatening condition.

We've been talking a deal here, Becky, about Robert Fico, too, and I think we shouldn't underestimate how divisive a politician he is. He is a

populist and he has as much hated, if you will, as he is loved.

He's been pro-Putin, bit softer on that. But he is anti-immigrant, has been anti-Muslim. So this is a politician who's not shy of controversy.

And even between stepping down as prime minister in 2018 and his current incarnation as prime minister picking up again in late September, when he

won the election last year, there was an interregnum, where there were charges filed against him for corruption.

There were questions about the murder of a journalist -- not the implication that he was involved. But there's been a lot of ill will, a lot

of bad rhetoric, a lot of -- we can say quite simply controversy around this political figure, this prime minister, who's now struggling to save

his life.

ANDERSON: Nic, stand by, I want to bring in Steven Erlanger, who is "The New York Times'" chief diplomatic correspondent. He's in Berlin, as I

understand it.

Are you with me?


ANDERSON: Good. It's good to have you. Just your reaction to what we are hearing here and any further detail you may be able to add at this point.

ERLANGER: Well, I have no detail about it, his health, obviously. And every leader in Europe, including Czech president, who is his opponent, has

condemned the assassination attempts.

Fico is, as you've heard, a very divisive figure, he is a populist, he is to the right. He is called -- part of his campaign was to stop aiding

Ukraine, to try to push Ukraine to make some sort of settlement with Russia.

Slovakia, after it broke up from the Czech Republic, has been in a way for a long time, was pro-Ukraine but Fico was always very powerful. And it is

the country in NATO that is least enamored of NATO. Public opinion polls show this. And it does, among the populace, have a real affection for

Russia and for Putin.


But this is clearly very unusual. I mean, you don't have this kind of assassination attempt in Europe very often.


ERLANGER: And we don't know much about who tried to kill him or obviously why. But there's no question Fico has pulled Slovakia sharply to the right

quite quickly. And his anti-immigrant stance is also likely to have made some people very angry.

But at this point, you just hope that he pulls himself through.

ANDERSON: Yes, because his condition is life-threatening as we understand it at present. Good to have you, sir.

This video, it's just in, appears to show the Slovakian prime minister, Robert Fico, being bundled into a car after being shot. Let me just bring

up this video for our viewers so they can see it.


ANDERSON (voice-over): I'm going to need to take a very short break. Let's just roll this video for you.