The shocking attack took place in front of hundreds of onlookers.
The mayor of Gdańsk in northern Poland was stabbed and seriously injured during a charity event in the port city on Sunday, according to media reports.
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He called the stabbing "an act of inexplicable barbarity".
The president of the European Council Donald Tusk tweeted a message of support, writing: 'We are with you'.
"Despite differences in political opinion, I am unconditionally with him and his relatives".
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Mr Adamowicz later underwent surgery, deputy mayor Piotry Grzelak, was quoted as saying by the PAP news agency. He was part of the democratic opposition born in that city under the leadership of Lech Walesa during the 1980s. He showed solidarity with the Jewish community when the city's synagogue had its windows broken a year ago, strongly denouncing the vandalism.
Police in Poland later confirmed on Twitter that they had detained a suspect following the incident.
The mayor, who has held the position since 1998, is seen as progressive has and shown support for LGBT rights and tolerance for minorities.
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Radio Gdansk reported that Adamowicz was stabbed in the area of his heart, but did not cite its source, while Rzeczpospolita described his condition as "critical", citing unnamed sources. "Especially since the finale of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity has for the last 27 years always been associated with good, with something joyful, positive".