Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico was battling life-threatening wounds Wednesday after officials said he was shot multiple times in an assassination attempt condemned by European leaders.

The Dennik N daily said its reporter in the central town of Handlova heard several shots fired and then saw security guards rushing to lift the premier off the ground and into a car.

The newspaper also reported that police had detained the suspected gunman.

"Today, after the government meeting in Handlova, there was an assassination attempt on the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Robert Fico," the government said in a post on social media.

Fico, whose Smer-SD party won the general election last September, is a four-time prime minister and a political veteran.

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"He is currently being transported by helicopter to Banska Bystrica in a life-threatening condition, because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute intervention," the government's statement added.

Fico was shot multiple times, said a post on his official Facebook page.

Handlova local hospital director Marta Eckhardtova said "Fico was brought into our hospital and he was treated at our vascular surgery clinic." 

She was unable to describe his injuries.

It added that the chief of police and health ministry official would hold a press conference at 3 p.m. GMT.

Attack condemned

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova said she was "utterly shocked by today's brutal and reckless attack on Slovakia's prime minister... which I condemn in (the) strongest possible terms." 

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"I wish him a lot of strength in this critical moment and early recovery," she said on X, formerly Twitter. 

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala also called the news of the attack "shocking." 

"I hope the prime minister will get well as soon as possible. We must not tolerate violence, it must have no place in society," he said on X.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "Robert, my thoughts are with you in this very difficult moment."

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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on X he was "shocked to hear this awful news."

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called for a "thorough investigation" and wished Fico "fully recovery." 

As well as his current stint as premier, Fico also headed the government in 2006-10 and 2012-18.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also condemned the attack, calling it "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," Zelensky said in post on "X."

Zelensky comments came despite the fact that, since elected last October, Fico questioned Ukraine's sovereignty and called for a compromise with Russia.

After he was elected, Slovakia also stopped sending weapons to defend Ukraine against Russia's invasion. He pledged during the electoral campaign not to provide Kyiv with "a single bullet." 

He also sparked mass protests with controversial changes, including a media law that critics say will undermine the impartiality of public television and radio.

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At a press conference following the shooting, MP Lubos Blaha from Fico's Smer party lashed out against Fico's critics.

"You, the liberal media, and progressive politicians are to blame. Robert Fico is fighting for his life because of your hatred," Blaha said.

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