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Slovakia’s prime minister makes 1st public appearance since assassination attempt

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico made his first public appearance on Friday since he was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt, attacking his liberal political opponents and praising his Hungarian counterpart.

Fico has been recovering at home from multiple wounds he suffered in the May 15 attack when he was shot in the abdomen as he greeted supporters in the town of Handlova, nearly 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital.

The suspect, identified only as J.C., was immediately arrested and faces terror charges.

Fico gave a speech on a stage at an evening gathering to mark the 1,161 anniversary of Saints Cyril and Methodius’s arrival, a national holiday in his country.

People gave him a standing ovation when he arrived at the Devin Castle in the capital.

In his adress, Fico, who was standing on the stage, attacked what he called liberal and progressivist ideologies and praised Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for his recent trips to Kyiv and Moscow.

Fico ended his country’s military aid for Ukraine after his coalition government was sworn in on Oct. 25. He also opposes EU sanctions on Russia, and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO.

He has long been a divisive figure in Slovakia and beyond. He returned to power for the fourth time last year, when his leftist party Smer, or Direction, won the parliamentary election last September after campaigning on a pro-Russia and anti-American message.

His critics worry that Slovakia could abandon its pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

Thousands have repeatedly rallied in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.

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