Slovak defense show carries on after Fico shooting

Slovak defense show carries on after Fico shooting

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — It was business as usual at Slovakia’s flagship defense fair here on Thursday, less than a day after the country’s Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and wounded in a town northeast of the capital.

A strangely normal atmosphere reigned on the last day of the IDEB defense show, shortly after news broke of the attack on the right-wing, populist leader, a mood that surprised industry executives queried by Defense News on the show floor.

Fico visited the fair on the occasion of the opening day on May 14 alongside Defense Minister Robert Kalinak, who is also the deputy prime minister.

“A strong and dynamic defense industry is a fundamental prerequisite for the security and stability for us and our allies in the transatlantic space – Slovakia is aware of its role in this area and doesn’t want to fall behind,” Kalinak said during the opening ceremony.

No security measures were added on site following Wednesday’s attack in the small town of Handlova some 190 kilometers away. Mixed groups of industry and military officers could be seen milling about between the exhibits of weaponry, discussing the news.

Slovakian leaders had banked on this fair to promote its growing defense industry and latest technology, including a new 120mm rapid-fire mortar system, unveiled on the first day. However, the event took place during an especially tense time.

In recent weeks, thousands of Slovaks have protested against a reform proposed by the Fico government that seeks to abolish national public broadcaster RTVS to replace it with an institution opponents have warned would suppress media freedom.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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