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The pro-Russian party, Direction – Slovak Social Democracy (SMER-SSD, or Smer), won Slovakia’s parliamentary elections over the weekend, a victory that could pose a challenge to NATO and European Union unity over Ukraine, CNN reported.

Results showed that the populist left-wing party led the polls with nearly 23 percent of the vote, while the pro-Ukraine Progressive Slovakia (PS) secured almost 18 percent.

Meanwhile, the moderate-left Hlas party, led by former Smer member Peter Pellegrini, came third with 14.7 percent of the vote and could play kingmaker.

Smer’s victory could see the return of former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has voiced strong opposition to Slovakia’s military aid to Ukraine. Until now, Slovakia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

But this is likely to change under Fico, who has accused “Ukrainian Nazis and fascists” of provoking Russia’s invasion last year – a false narrative that the Kremlin has used to justify the invasion.

Even so, Smer will have to form a coalition with other parties in order to secure a majority to form a government. PS leader Michal Šimečka said his party will do “everything it can” to prevent Fico from governing.

It’s unclear if Hlas will join a Smer-led government, with Pellegrini remaining ambivalent about Slovakia’s support of Ukraine: He previously suggested Slovakia “had nothing left to donate” to Ukraine, but also said that the EU should continue to provide weapons to Kyiv.

Meanwhile, there are concerns that a Smer-led government could impact EU and NATO policy. Fico has become a close ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, especially when it comes to criticism of the EU.

Fico, Slovakia’s former prime minister for over a decade in two separate terms, resigned in March 2018 amid mass protests triggered by the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová. Kuciak’s reporting exposed corruption within the country’s elite, including individuals linked to Fico and his Smer party.

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