Robert Fico, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, is in life-threatening condition having been shot multiple times in an incident north-east of Bratislava.

Shots were reported outside of the House of Culture in Handlova following a government meeting.

According to reports the Prime Minister went to greet people waiting outside and several shots were fired. He has been taken to hospital in Banská Bystrica and his assailant has been detained.

The Slovak government later said that Mr Fico was in a life-threatening condition.

A spokesperson said: "He is being transported by helicopter to Banská Bystrica because it would take too long to get to Bratislava due to the necessity of an acute intervention. The next few hours will be decisive."

According to TV Joj, the alleged gunman is a 71-year-old man from Levice in Southern Slovakia.

Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ľuboš Blaha confirmed that government business has been suspended due to the shooting.

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An eyewitness told Dennik that she had heard three or four shots, and that Mr Fico had sustained wounds to his chest and head. She could not say how serious.

She said: "I was just going to shake his hand, when the shots rang out it almost deafened me."

František Majerský of the Christian Democratic Movement said: "We must all unite against any form of violence.

"An attack on the Prime Minister is an attack on Slovak statehood and sovereignty. At this moment, it is necessary to do everything to calm society down.

"We clearly condemn aggression, violence and attacks on politicians and other public officials. We wish the prime minister a speedy recovery and think of him in our prayers."

Mr Fico was elected for his third term as Prime Minister of Slovakia in 2023.

He has been described as a populist, stating in 2016 that the country would not accept "one single Muslim" and "Islam has no place in Slovakia".

In his latest term Mr Fico has sought to align his country more closely with Russia, and has laid out his vision for a "sovereign Slovak foreign policy" which would mean providing no military aid to Ukraine.

That has seen its neighbouring Czech Republic suspend inter-governmental relations with Bratislava, while France excluded Slovakia from talks about the peace process in Ukraine.

Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov praised the Slovak government for “having its own opinion about the situation in the world.”

The representative for the European Commission in Slovakia said: "Violence has no place in our society.

"This horrific act represents an attack not only on the individual, but also on our democratic values and principles.

"We call for a thorough investigation into this shocking event and for justice to be served. Our thoughts are with the family and those closest to Robert Fico."