Slovakia set to cut military aid to Ukraine after decision by former pro-Moscow prime minister Robert Fico won the country’s legislative elections Saturday, threatening Western unity because of the war.
The 59-year-old SMER-SSD party won nearly 23 percent of the vote, prompting the president to begin negotiations to replace a technocratic government that was support Kyiv against the Russian invasion.
“We are not changing our desire to help Ukraine in a humanitarian way,” Fico said at a news conference on Sunday. “We are ready to contribute to the reconstruction of the State but you know our opinion on the armament of Ukraine. We have clear ideas, we have clear plans. If the warrant comes, I know exactly what to do.
Mr. Fico’s campaign call for “not a single turn” for Ukraine had attracted voters in this country of 5.5 million inhabitants, playing on anti-Western and pro-Russian sentiment.
EU and NATO member state Slovakia has so far strongly supported Kiev, supplying surface-to-air missiles and helicopters, and even donating its entire aircraft fleet retired MiG-29 combat aircraft.
But Mr Fico said Slovakia had bigger problems than the war, including energy prices and the cost of living. He said his party would do everything possible to begin peace talks to end the conflict.
The Slovak liberal party Progresivne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia, PS) came second in Saturday’s vote with almost 18 percent of the vote and wants to stay the course on kyiv.
Mr. Fico could therefore turn to the moderate left-wing HLAS (Voice) party, which came third with almost 15 percent of the vote, as a partner alongside the nationalist and pro-Russian Slovak National Party. He said coalition talks could take two weeks.
These three parties would have a parliamentary majority of 79 seats if they joined forces in a coalition government.
In the capital Bratislava, voters were divided over the country’s future after Mr Fico’s victory. Martin Cisár, 24, warned that “democracy is over” for Slovakia.
Petra, a student who voted for progressive Slovakia, expressed similar concerns. “And now?” she says. “Everyone in my neighborhood voted for progressive Slovakia, where are those who voted for Smer?
But others welcomed Mr. Fico’s victory.
“I’m glad we’re not trying any experiments. We don’t have the time or space for that. I have to pay for my family life and that’s why I need security,” said Boris, 34.
Asked if his election victory also meant victory for Vladimir Putin, Mr. Fico said on Sunday that his opinion on Ukraine did not mean he supported Moscow.
“Respect that we have a different opinion on certain things,” he said.
Mr Fico also pledged to combat illegal immigration and said restoring border controls with Hungary would be a top priority.