THE HEAD of the Presidential Office’s public relations section, Dárius Rusnák, a former ice hockey player, verbally attacked two women for speaking Hungarian in a bar, after which he provoked a physical fight with two younger men who stood up in defence of the women, according to a report in Új Szó, the Hungarian-language daily, which cited one of the women as its source.

Rusnák used vulgar language and told the women to leave the bar unless they speak Slovak, one of the women, who wished to remain anonymous, citing fear of intimidation, later told the Sme daily. Two younger men present in the Prezidentka bar politely warned Rusnák that his behaviour was unacceptable. Rusnák and his companion allegedly responded by attacking the young men, knocking one of them to the floor, Sme reported.

According to Új Szó, Rusnák initially denied being at the bar. Later, when speaking to the SITA newswire, Rusnák denied inciting the fight. While he said he regretted the event, Rusnák does not think he should bear any consequences.

“I do not think that I should be in any way disqualified for this,” he responded to the incident, as quoted by SITA.

The police, called to the scene by the two women, are treating the incident as suspicion of disorderly conduct, Sme reported.

By the time The Slovak Spectator went to print late on May 22, the response of President Ivan Gašparovič to the incident was not known. Nevertheless, Sme quoted presidential spokesman Marek Trubač as responding: “Even if the incident appeared outside of working hours, we consider such conduct unacceptable”. If he is found guilty, the presidential office would punish Rusnák, Trubač said.

Rusnák however will likely vacate the presidential office with the arrival of Gašparovič’s successor, Andrej Kiska, SITA reported.

“When someone is watching an ice-hockey game one always experiences strong emotions, and one of my friends responded very inappropriately,” Rusnák said of the incident, noting that he and his friend were watching a match between Denmark and France, and that the fate of the Slovak team at the world championships hung on the outcome of the match.

Rusnák said he plans to apologise to the women.