Robert Fico defended his election campaign, saying Slovakia has bigger problems than Ukraine. Photo: AP
Slovakia is set to cut military aid to Ukraine after its pro-Moscow former prime minister Robert Fico won parliamentary elections on Saturday.
Fico's left-wing party Smer-SSD took the lead ( although not a majority), appealing to anti-Western and pro-Russian sentiment.
Mr Fico's campaign message of “not a single round” for Ukraine appealed to voters in a country of 5.5 million where only a minority believe that Russia is to blame for the war in Ukraine.
After the results were announced on Sunday, Mr Fico said Slovakia had “bigger problems” than Ukraine.
The country's previous government stood firmly behind Kyiv, supplying surface-to-air missiles and helicopters. and even donated his entire fleet of retired MiG-29 fighters.
Mr. Fico added that he is ready to help Ukraine with humanitarian aid and reconstruction. “But our position on weapons is known,” he said.
Mr Fico has also previously said he wants to stop Ukraine from joining NATO and repeated Putin's baseless claim that the Ukrainian government is running a Nazi state .
The Smer-SSD party did not receive a majority, but had a clear advantage. leads with almost 24 percent of the vote, despite the fact that exit polls suggest a victory for the liberal-centrist party.
Sunday Fico began negotiations to form a coalition government.
When asked whether his victory also meant a victory for Vladimir Putin on Sunday, he replied that just because he has a different opinion does not mean he is in favor Russia.
“Respect that we have a different opinion on some things,” he said.
Mr Fico said that instead of sending weapons to Ukraine, Western countries should use their influence to force Russia and Ukraine to reach a peace agreement.
“If Smer is tasked with forming a cabinet… we will do everything possible to hold peace negotiations as soon as possible,” Mr. Fico said.
Mr Fico also told reporters that one of his first changes would be to reimpose controls on the border with Hungary.
Smer's coalition options include the pro-European Hlas party, which won 15 percent of the vote, and an ultranationalist party. , the pro-Russian Slovak National Party, which received 5.7 percent.
The liberal Progressive Slovakia party, which exit polls show won the election, received about 17 percent of the vote.
It is unclear whether Hlas leader Peter Pellegrini is willing to take on a minor role in what could become a polarizing coalition.
Mr Pellegrini reportedly said he was pleased with the result because without them it would be impossible to form a functioning coalition.
There could be up to 10 parties in the new parliament. from libertarians to the far right, which could make the coalition process long and difficult.
Mr Fico admitted his party could need two weeks to negotiate.
Mr Fico is a two-time prime minister who was forced to resign as prime minister following protests following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak in 2018.
“Guess who's back”
Kuciak was investigating alleged mafia infiltration of the country, raising questions over Mr Fico's decisions after it emerged that one of his close aides was a former business associate of an alleged member of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta clan.
Slovakia's liberal president Zuzana Caputova – – which is suing Mr Fico after his supporters received death threats – reacted mutedly to his victory, issuing a statement through a spokesman.
However, Hungary's far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban congratulated Mr Fico .
– Guess who's back! he said in a message in English, adding that it was “always a pleasure to work with a patriot.”
What Mr. Fico’s coalition will look like remains to be seen, but his victory suggests a very clear crack in NATO unity and EU regarding Ukraine.