Slovak president ‘destabilising country’ over reporter’s murder

Jan Kuciak killed with his girlfriend while probing mafia links to Slovak politics


Embattled Slovak prime minister Robert Fico has sought to reassure envoys from the European Union and United States over his government’s response to the murder of a journalist who investigated possible mafia infiltration of senior political circles.

As pressure continued to build on Mr Fico, he accused Slovak president Andrej Kiska on Tuesday of destabilising the country and suggested again that he was working with liberal philanthropist George Soros to oust his populist cabinet.

Mr Kiska called for snap elections or a major government overhaul on Sunday, a week after Jan Kuciak (27) and his girlfriend Martina Kusnirova were found shot dead at his home in a village east of the Slovak capital, Bratislava.

“What began on Sunday is a scenario that was not written here,” Mr Fico said, while again asking what Mr Kiska discussed with Mr Soros at a private meeting in New York last year.

“The president’s duty is to protect the good name of Slovakia, but instead of doing that he is de-stabilising the country in a way that is unprecedented in the European Union,” Mr Fico told reporters after a working lunch with EU and US ambassadors.

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A spokesman for Mr Soros said the Hungarian-American billionaire had nothing to do with Mr Kiska’s criticism of Mr Fico or big street protests last week against the government and corruption, which are likely to be repeated on Friday.

Mr Kiska also rejected what he called Mr Fico’s attempt to deflect public attention from Mr Kuciak’s murder and his last, unfinished investigation, which alleged that one of the premier’s aides and a senior party ally had business links with a man connected to Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan.

Prominent members of the Most-Hid party, which is part of the ruling coalition led by Mr Fico’s Smer party, also denounced his comments and accused him of throwing up a smokescreen to shield his political allies.

Most-Hid is pushing for the dismissal of interior minister Robert Kalinak, and says it will decide on Monday whether to leave the coalition – a move which could hasten snap elections.

Mr Kalinak, a close ally of Mr Fico, has survived previous scandals but is now accused of lying about information that Italy gave to Slovakia about the presence of mafia figures in the central European state.

Under pressure

He denies any wrongdoing, but is under pressure to produce results after seven Italians detained for questioning in eastern Slovakia over the double murder were released. No one has been charged over a double murder that shocked the nation.

Mr Kiska said he would launch his own crisis talks with party leaders on Wednesday, and urged Mr Fico to drop his conspiracy theories about Mr Soros, “gather up what’s left of his political dignity and deal with what is worrying the country”.

“We will start talks with political leaders and I am ready to bring our country out of this crisis,” Mr Kiska added.

“We have to unite and restore people’s trust in the state . . . We should not have a government that polarises our country but one that brings it together.”