Slovak president appoints govt forged with pro-Russia party


Slovakia’s president on Wednesday appointed a new coalition government led by populist Robert Fico, who has teamed up with a pro-Russian party.

“We will be a constructive government. You will see sovereign Slovak foreign policy,” Fico said at the ceremony. His party won last month’s general vote on pledges to end military help for Ukraine, raising concerns about cracks in Western support for Kyiv.

Following the election win, Fico said, “the people in Slovakia have bigger problems than (dealing with) Ukraine” and called for peace talks as “further killing will not help anyone”.

“I do not expect Fico to address the topic of military aid for Ukraine any time soon,” Darina Malova, a professor of political science at the Bratislava-based Comenius University, told AFP.

Fico, who had already previously served as Slovakia’s premier, will chair the new three-party government. It includes Fico’s left-wing Smer-SD, the far-right and pro-Russia SNS and Hlas-SD, a breakaway party from Smer.

SNS shares Fico’s staunch anti-refugee rhetoric and populist leanings.

Its pro-Russian chairman and former parliamentary speaker Andrej Danko said in July that Russian-occupied territories were not “historically Ukrainian”.

He is infamous for shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, taking a selfie with Russian State Duma Chair Vyacheslav Volodin, and addressing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as “my dear friend”. The new cabinet features some of the members from Fico’s previous government.

That cabinet fell amid a wave of street protests following the 2018 double murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.

Pro-Russian MP Juraj Blanar, a close Fico ally who lacks diplomacy experience, was appointed foreign minister. Former central bank governor and Smer MP Ladislav Kamenicky will again become finance minister, a post he held until 2020.

Smer’s former interior minister Robert Kalinak is the new defence minister. In 2020, he was charged with corruption and establishing a crime group. The charges were later dropped.

Hlas-SD chair — and former prime minister — Peter Pellegrini was elected the speaker of parliament on Wednesday.

Fico will attend the European Council meeting in Brussels on Thursday.__Daily Times