Robert Fico’s failed assassination raises specter of Western plotting

10:22 06.06.2024 •

Robert Fico.
Photo: The Gray Zone

Slovak PM Robert Fico’s independent stance earned him the wrath of NATO and the EU. Did a Western-directed plot to remove his troublesome government from office trigger his assassination attempt? – asks ‘The Gray Zone’ investigation site.

On May 15, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was almost murdered in broad daylight. While shaking hands with supporters during a public appearance, a gunman shot him twice in the abdomen and once in the shoulder. The attack left him fighting for his life while authorities raced for clues, and many observers at home and abroad puzzled about the would-be assassin’s motives and whether foreign actors were in some way responsible for the attack. And despite the shooter’s instantaneous arrest, those questions still linger weeks later.

Fico, a veteran Slovak political figure, was re-elected in September 2023 amid a wave of public resentment over the proxy war in Ukraine, pledging to end arms supplies to Kiev and anti-Russian sanctions. On the campaign trail, Western leaders, journalists and pundits aggressively stoked fears of the “pro-Putin,” “populist” candidate returning to office. Ukraine’s Western-backed “Center for Countering Disinformation” publicly accused him of spreading “infoterror” back in April 2022.

But many Slovakians see it differently. They say Fico is merely committed to defending Slovakia’s sovereignty, and governing in his nation’s interests, not those of Brussels, Kiev, London, and Washington. For Western politicians, his victory came at a highly inopportune time, with public and political consensus on the proxy war in Ukraine rapidly fraying across Europe.

Since Fico’s election, media outlets like Germany’s state broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, have branded him a “threat” to the EU and NATO. His declaration that Kiev must cede territory to Russia to end the war was not well-received in Western capitals. In April, the premier seemingly predicted his own shooting, warning that the virulent political climate in Bratislava could result in politicians getting killed.

When Fico was re-elected in September 2023, there were journalist’s speculations that a color revolution could soon be impending in Slovakia. We are now left to ponder whether the Prime Minister’s attempted assassination was a Western-directed plot to remove his troublesome government from office. Even though he is finally on the road to recovery, the threat of an overseas-orchestrated coup remains. A vast US-sponsored opposition political and media infrastructure is causing havoc in Bratislava, and this could easily escalate further.

Fico’s shooter, 71-year-old Juraj Cintula, is among the Slovaks who do not support Fico’s positions. A discrepant picture of the man has emerged since his arrest. Some acquaintances describe him as “weird and angry,” and “against everything.” Others report he was meek and mild-mannered, a far from obvious candidate to attempt a high-level political assassination. Cintula, an avowed Kiev ultra, claims he acted alone, his actions motivated by a desire to replace Fico’s government with a pro-Ukrainian administration. Slovakian court documents state that Cintula “wants military aid to be provided to Ukraine and considers the current government to be Judas towards the European Union,” and say this perception is why the would-be assassin “decided to act.”

Another disturbing feature of mainstream reporting on the shooting is ubiquitous, persistent reference to Slovakia’s unstable politics. According to this narrative, Fico’s anti-Western policies have fueled the chaotic state of affairs, provoking the assassination attempt and making him ultimately responsible for the attempt on his life. In the days following the shooting, the BBC, Financial Times, New York Times and Germany’s Der Spiegel pinned the blame on Slovakia’s alleged “toxic” political culture. The latter revised its wording after significant public backlash.  

One could be forgiven for concluding Western journalists take it as self-evident that defying EU/US will provides legitimate grounds for getting shot. Western politicians clearly do. On May 23rd, Georgian prime minister Irakli Kobakhidze revealed that EU commissioner Oliver Varhelyi warned him he could suffer the same fate as Fico, if his government didn’t drop a highly controversial “foreign influence transparency” law, which would compel local NGOs to disclose their sources of income.

After listing the various ways the EU could retaliate against Georgia in a phone call with Kobakhidze, Varhelyi allegedly stated: “Look what happened to Fico, you should be very careful.”

Public records show the US government regime change specialists at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have pumped millions into NGOs and media outlets in Slovakia under the aegis of mundane-sounding initiatives such as “strengthening civil society” and “promoting democratic values among youth.” Similar language is used to describe the purpose of Endowment grants in Georgia, financing groups at the forefront of recent violent unrest on the streets of Tbilisi, as The Grayzone has documented. Perhaps unsurprisingly, NED grantees are unanimous in their opposition to Fico.

The NED-organized overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia in 2000 established an insurrectionary blueprint which was subsequently exported in the form of color revolutions.

At the time, Bratislava was one of the only post-Communist countries that neither adopted ruinous neoliberal political and economic reforms, nor pursued EU or NATO membership. Slovakia’s then-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar paid a harsh price for his independent stance. Relentlessly slandered by US and European leaders as a Russian pawn, he quickly became a target for regime change.

In 1997, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright publicly described Slovakia as “a black hole in the heart of Europe,” formally marking him for removal. So it was that NED funded the creation of Civic Campaign 98 (OK’98), a coalition of 11 anti-government NGOs.

Explicitly modeled on an earlier NED-funded effort in Bulgaria, concerned with “creating chaos” after the Socialist Party won the 1990 election, many of the individuals involved had been part of Cold War-era Czechoslovak anti-Communist dissident groups. OK’98 was publicly framed as a non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaign, but its vast resources were explicitly deployed for anti-government purposes.  

The return of Robert Fico represented a significant broadside against ongoing US “democratization” of the former Soviet sphere. It opened up the prospect of further anti-NATO candidates and governments gaining office elsewhere in Europe, at the most inconvenient juncture imaginable for Brussels and Washington.

Not coincidentally, it was at this time polling for Germany’s upstart Alternative für Deutschland became turbocharged. The Euroskeptic party’s standing has soared in recent months, eliciting mainstream calls to ban it outright. And in North Macedonia just one week prior to Fico’s shooting, the anti-establishment VMRO-DPMNE party returned to power, overturning a NATO-fuelled color revolution that removed the party from office almost a decade earlier.  

As the anti-Western backlash gained steam, a decision may have been made to draw a bloody red line in Slovakia, ‘The Gray Zone’ stresses.


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