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Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico takes first trip outside capital after assassination attempt

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BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Robert Fico took his first trip outside the capital on Monday since resuming his duties after an assassination attempt.

Fico visited a farm in Slovenska Nova Ves, northeast of the capital of Bratislava, along with agriculture minister Richard Takáč to check the grain harvest.

Fico said in a brief statement that Slovakia was not ready to lift a ban on imports of agricultural products from Ukraine and thanked farmers for their work.

He was using a walking stick and did not take any questions from the media.

It was his first official trip outside the capital since recovering from the May 15 attack in which he was shot in the abdomen as he greeted supporters in the town of Handlova, 140 kilometers (85 miles) northeast of the capital.

Fico made his first public appearance since the assassination attempt on Friday, when he gave a speech for a national holiday.

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 parliamentary elections 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 of people have held rallies in the capital and across Slovakia to protest Fico’s policies.