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Turkmen Report: February 2, 2001

2 February 2001
30 January 2001

Turkmenistan said on Tuesday it would boost state security forces as part of moves to tighten controls on foreigners and clamp down on drug trafficking and political and religious extremism.

President Saparmurat Niyazov said in remarks broadcast on state television that numbers in the Committee for National Security or KNB would be boosted to 2,500 from 1,500.

"Last year alone 988,000 people visited Turkmenistan from abroad...If some of them came with good intentions, then some of them didn't," he was seen telling a meeting of KNB officials.

"We must make sure that they come and go on time, and that they don't disturb the good order of the country."

Niyazov said KNB departments responsible for monitoring the drugs trade and religious and political agitation would be the first to be strengthened.

"Last year 350,000 religious books which were at odds with the principles of our faith were brought into Turkmenistan, and around 80,000 video cassettes...they're trying to play games with us," he said.

Like other former Soviet states in the region, Turkmenistan is largely secular after decades of Soviet rule.

Niyazov added that last year security forces seized 2,220 tons of narcotics, including 220 kg of heroin. Turkmenistan has already started imposing restrictions on the movements of foreigners and its own citizens.

In June 1999 it became the first member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose grouping of some former Soviet states, to introduce a visa regime for other CIS nationals.

At the same time, it introduced exit visas for Turkmen nationals leaving the country for other CIS states. (Reuters)

30 January 2001

Turkmen reports say there is a growing popular movement to use the likeness of the president's deceased mother as the national symbol for justice.

According to the state-owned daily newspaper "Neutralny Turkmenistan," Turkmen citizens are inundating the press with letters calling for President Saparmurat Niyazov's mother, Gurbansoltan, to become such a symbol.

The paper said Turkmen citizens want Niyazov's mother depicted in statues and paintings with scales in her hands, like the ancient Greek goddess of justice Themis.

Niyazov's mother died in a 1948 earthquake, when Niyazov was eight-years-old. The Turkmen president has already glorified her memory by ordering a monument built to her in the capital, Ashgabat, and naming streets and a perfume after her.

International human rights and press freedom organizations routinely criticize the Turkmen government for failing to grant citizens the most basic rights. (ITAR-TASS/AFP)

29 January 2001

Turkmenistan's National Security Committee (KNB), Interior Ministry (MVD), and Border Service confiscated 2,200 kilograms of various drugs, including 220 kilograms of heroin, by working together in 2000, President Saparmurat Niyazov is quoted as saying in a nationally televised speech.

Attempts are being made not only to poison the residents of Turkmenistan with drugs but to "disturb the peace of mind," the president said.

"Of an estimated 998,000 foreign visitors to Turkmenistan last year, some were members of religious sects of all kinds seeking to divide society." This is why nearly "10,000 people were arrested and expelled from the country for fomenting disorder" by the KNB, he said.

Considering that the security service staff has under 1,500 officers, a decision has been made to increase the KNB numbers by 1,000 MVD troops to reinforce the Velayat (regional) KNB units and groups in the fight against drug trafficking and in the protection of national security and constitutional system.

The president stressed that Turkmenistan needs a mobile army no more than 50,000 strong but equipped with advanced arms.

He said he believes that the republic's armed forces should also have units possessing a huge weapon potential, and these are being gradually set up. But the main task is "to prevent internal strife, since, with that, the state begins to be ruined," Niyazov said. At present, the Turkmen army is about 90,000 strong. (Interfax)

29 January 2001

The textile industry was second (after the gas extraction industry) in rate of production growth among all sectors of the economy in 2000. According to government data, the sector's enterprises produced goods worth about 1.08 trillion manats last year, 38.5 percent more than in 1999. Consumer textile goods worth about 588 billion manats were produced, 39 percent up on 1999, and the profit on the sale of goods was over 196.5 billion manats. A significant increase was achieved in the volume of cotton fabric and yarn, knitted fabrics, and a wide range of finished goods.

The significant increase in the sector's economic potential is shown by the fact that the processing of cotton fiber has risen nearly fourfold in Turkmenistan during the last five years. In 2000, domestic enterprises processed 56,500 tons of cotton fiber.

Enterprises of the sector intend to keep growing in 2001, and in that 10th anniversary of independence, textile manufacturing is expected to grow to 1.300 trillion manats, and the production of consumer goods in that sector to 925.9 billion manats.

Some 52,400 tons of cotton yarn, 60 million square meters of cotton fabric, 9.4 million tons of knitted fabric, and about 27 million knitted goods will be produced. This will substantially meet the domestic need for textile goods, will allow the export of products to be substantially increased, and will bring considerable revenue to the state budget. (BBC monitoring/Turkmen State News Service)

29 January 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov received Ukraine's ambassador to Turkmenistan, Vadim Chuprun. He told the Turkmen president about progress made with Ukraine's ability to make payments for Turkmen gas.

An agreement on Turkmen gas supplies was, of course, signed during Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's visit to Turkmenistan in October last year. Since the end of last year, over 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas have been delivered to Ukraine. The contract to supply gas this year provides for 30 billion cubic meters.

Payments for the Turkmen gas is being carried in accordance with the agreement. Some 50 percent has already been paid for in hard currency, and Ukraine is now settling the goods and services part of the payment scheme. The most significant project that is being carried out by Ukraine in Turkmenistan is the construction of a railway bridge across the Amudarya River in eastern Turkmenistan.

During the meeting, Niyazov confirmed plans for his official visit to Ukraine. Before the visit, a 10-year partnership agreement is to be drawn up.

After the meeting the envoy said that "Turkmen fuel goes to many places, but Ukraine is one of the biggest consumers -- 30 billion cubic meters is a large amount.

"We discussed the Turkmen president's planned visit [to Ukraine], and Saparmurat Atayevich confirmed his readiness to visit at the beginning of May, in the first 10 days of May. The date of the visit will be modified slightly nearer the time, since the Turkmen president's work schedule is very full during the first half of the year. He has a lot of visits and receptions, and one of the visits being planned is to Ukraine. We are expecting a lot from this visit. Primarily, a substantial document on partnership for the next 10 years will be signed."

It is reported that some 10 other documents will be signed during the visit and a legal basis for bilateral cooperation will be created. Progress on other projects in Turkmenistan was also discussed during the meeting. The envoy expressed his gratitude to the Turkmen president for his reception. (Turkmen TV)

29 January 2001

It is the severe cold snap rather than the debt for natural gas which has stopped the supplies of Uzbek natural gas to Kyrgyzstan. Correspondent Albert Bogdanov reports from Bishkek:

The Kazakh Intergaz Tsentralnaya Aziya (Intergas Central Asia closed-type joint-stock company) has managed to maintain the natural gas supply it uses to transport the Uzbek natural gas supplies to Kyrgyz heating plants using old reserves. However, the entire Kyrgyz private sector has been left without natural gas. Moreover, the debt is snowballing and it is quite possible that the gas tap will be turned off, if not in winter, then in the spring. Last winter Kyrgyz citizens were without gas for three months. Currently an agreement between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan on supplying natural gas in exchange for water is in effect. In the winter months Kyrgyzstan increases its electricity generation by intensively discharging through hydroelectric power turbines the water that Uzbekistan is so short of in the summer for its cotton crops.

However, the Kyrgyz government intends to start using an alternative natural gas supplier from Turkmenistan. Talks on supplying natural gas via Uzbekistan through the existing gas pipeline will start with the Russian Gazprom company in mid-February. There is also a second string of the pipeline, the building of which was begun during Soviet times, but there is not yet enough money to finish the third and final phase of its construction, although the amount needed is not that great -- $16 million. The managing director of the Kyrgyzgaz (Kyrgyz natural gas) joint-stock company, Turgunbek Kulmurzaev, said that this would ease the gas situation in the republic and would afford an opportunity for Russia's Gazprom to build natural gas filling stations in Kyrgyzstan.

Meanwhile, emergency electricity cuts have begun in many areas of Kyrgyzstan because electricity lines cannot take the load and some residential areas have been left not only without gas and electricity, but also with only cold water. (Kyrgyz-Press International News Agency)

29 January 2001

Reconstruction of the Atamurat-Imamnazar highway, in eastern Turkmenistan, which covers a distance of more than 70 kilometers, has begun. In practice, a new highway will be built across the Gulistan lands. Builders from Lebapyolgurlushyk (Lebap road construction) intend to finish the work by the 10th anniversary of Turkmen independence on 27 October. All the firm's brigades are now working on the road. They are going to lay 80,000 cubic meters of gravel and 100,000 tons of asphalt.

The Atamurat-Imamnazar highway is of great significance for the social and economic development of the country. In particular, it will carry freight exports to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The reconstruction of the road will allow heavy-trucks vehicles to travel along it freely. (BBC monitoring/Turkmen State News Service news agency)

27 January 2001

A report from Turkmenistan says )resident Saparmurat Niyazov intends to tighten control over foreigners wishing to enter the country.

Agence France Presse cites a Turkmen report (eds: "Neutralny Turkmenistan") as saying Niyazov wants to introduce registration procedures for foreigner visitors to obtain better information on why they want to visit.

The paper says Niyazov plans to increase the national security committee (KNB) by 1,000 men at the expense of the Interior Ministry, Defense Ministry and border guards.

Last June it was reported that Niyazov wanted to establish a special council to control and register foreigners.

AFP says the move comes amid mounting alarm in Central Asia over an influx of Islamic extremists who some believe are being trained in camps in Afghanistan. (AFP)

27 January 2001

A Kazakh government delegation led by First Deputy Finance Minister Bolat Zhamishev arrived in Ashgabat. The Turkmen delegation is led by Deputy Prime Minister Yelly Kurbanmuradov.

The purpose of the talks is to ascertain the debt and work out payment mechanisms. Agreements to be reached by the delegations will be considered by the bilateral intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation that is due to meet in the first half of this year in keeping with the decision adopted recently by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev by telephone.

According to Turkmenistan's Central Bank, Kazakhstan's debt as of 1 January was $52.7 million, including $21.8 million for Turkmen gas supplies in 1993-1994 and 28.9 million for electrical power supplies in 1995-2000. (ITAR-TASS)

27 January 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov said a priority for the National Security Committee is to bar unwelcome foreign visitors from entering the republic. He also announced that the personnel of national security bodies would increase by 1,000.

About 1 million guests visited Turkmenistan last year, the head of state said, noting that visas were denied to some 10,000 people, because their activities were incompatible with spiritual or moral principles of the Turkmen society.

Niyazov said there had been more cases of propaganda of various religious movements and spreading of pornography.

More than 350,000 religious books and 80,000 pornorgraphic videos were seized last year alone. Another priority for the National Security Committee is the struggle against drug trafficking. Last year, police seized more than 220 kilograms of heroin from drug couriers.

The president demanded that the committee develop and strictly follow a clear-cut procedure of registration for foreign visitors. It is a legal right of any state to keep away unwelcome guests, the president emphasized. (ITAR-TASS)

27 January 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov told National Security Committee officers on 26 January that they had to make greater efforts against drug trafficking and against "ill-intentioned" visitors. Speaking to senior security staff at a meeting marking the commissioning of the agency's refurbished offices, he said an extra 1,000 officers would be seconded from the Interior Ministry and border services to the National Security Committee. In 2000, Niyazov said, 220 kilograms of heroin was seized in Turkmenistan, in addition to large quantities of other drugs, and 10,000 foreigners were expelled from the country for trying "to sow discord in the country."

Niyazov also said that because of its neutral status, Turkmenistan should not employ undercover agents abroad. The country should have a mobile, well-equipped army of 50,000, one able to respond instantly to events. At a meeting later the same day at the Police Academy, Niyazov ordered new, brightly-colored uniforms for the police; the present ones, he said, looked faded. The following are excerpts from the 70-minute broadcast:

"[Presenter] Any place in our country becomes the scene of festivities as soon as our highly esteemed president Saparmurat Turkmenbashi Niyazov arrives. This was the case today. Grand festivities were held today at the Turkmen National Security Committee and at Turkmenistan's Army General Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov Police Academy."

[Passage omitted: welcome ceremony at National Security Committee, where Niyazov arrives driving his own car; security men shown performing exercises; Niyazov then shown in hall addressing officials.]

"[Niyazov] I am glad to say that the National Security Committee of Turkmenistan is doing quite a lot. I cannot be dissatisfied with you, because with only 1,500 staff, it is impossible to exercise control all over Turkmenistan, control of both the good and the bad. With this staff, you are guarding borders and combating crime. But nevertheless, you have not sorted out your relations with the Interior Ministry, the police, the Prosecutor's Office. You are yourselves aware of this. ...With your 1,500 personnel you cannot cope with the tasks set before you and I think you agree with me, do you not? In that case you must coordinate your relations with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Border Troops.

"[Niyazov:] A total of 2,200 tons [as heard] of drugs were seized in Turkmenistan [time scale not mentioned] and you say that you have done this. The same goes for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which claims it did part of this work and the Border Troops say the same. The total volume is 2,200 or 220 [corrects himself] and all of you made a contribution to it, but each of you have acted separately and in your own way. Usually one group seizes the haul and hands it over to you. Acting on my instructions the Interior Ministry and Border Troops hand over to you all the drugs they have seized. You also confiscated 220 kg of heroin last year.

"[Combating drug trafficking and preventing ill intentioned foreign visitors are major tasks for the security bodies]. It is vital for us to step up the fight against drugs. This is a weak point in Turkmenistan. The next weak point is that there is insufficient control over foreign visitors. With your small groups you are not able to do anything about them. Some 988,000 -- or nearly 1 million foreigners visited Turkmenistan last year alone. In comparison with our own population of slightly over 5 million, foreign visitors made up the equivalent of one-fifth of our population. There are some ill-intentioned visitors among them who try to disturb peace and accord in the country. So you have reinforced those of your groups which deal with these tasks.

"[Niyazov:] At present, there are two problems vital for Turkmenistan, both of them external in origin. One of them is drugs being smuggled from outside and the other is books with religious content which is not in accordance with our religion and various religious groups carrying out activities aimed at sowing discord among our nation. You have detained 10,000 such persons and expelled them from the country for various offenses. Well done!

"[Niyazov says security men must be vigilant against drugs and visitors.] The staff of the police service currently number 22,000, of whom 19,000 are officers and another 4,000 are interior troops [figures as heard]. Therefore, we will consider this issue once again and will transfer 1,000 of them to you. These 1,000 should be divided among the regions to reinforce the groups combating drug trafficking and preventing the activities of foreign visitors who are trying to sow discord among us, among our nation, through politics and religion.

"[Niyazov:] Now about our national security agents abroad. As I have said before, you have to stop the activity of your people in foreign countries. We do not need it. Due to our neutral status we must not cooperate with anyone on security issues. Of course there can be cooperation over criminals, but it is prohibited for us to cooperate with one country to carry out undercover activity against a third country.

[Niyazov instructs security officers on how to work with the population.] You are aware that some 350,000 books with a religious content which does not comply with our religion and some 80,000 tapes were brought into our country last year. The intention was to make fools of us. Turkmen have been made fools of since the 16th century. You need now to be very bold Turkmen so as to prevent anybody from making fools of us again. We have to learn to live as a single nation without conflicting tribes and without religious discord. There are some people amongst us, just a handful, who want to have an Islamic state here.

[Niyazov says vigilance and responsibility for state security are essential.]

"[Niyazov:] We do not need a national army 80,000 or 90,000 strong. Above all, we need to know what poses a threat to our state and where it comes from. You have to remember also that nobody is going to attack us from outside. But this outside enemy will come here as soon as any kind of internal discord emerges here in the country. An outside enemy only comes here under the pretext that somebody has asked them for help. [Russia's occupation of Turkmenistan recalled as an example of foreign invasion under such a pretext.]

"[Niyazov:] In order not to repeat such events, we have to preplan our security matters. We also should have an army 50,000 strong, well-equipped and very mobile, capable of quick action or as the Turkmen call it 'gurpbasdy' action, that is, instant action. Of course, there should be large units, too, with heavy weaponry and sometime later on we will have such units, too. At present, the main task is to prevent internal discord which usually leads to the collapse of the entire state.

"[Niyazov: Turkmen people need to be patriotic.] Let me make it clear that it is wrong to think that any misfortune will fall only on the president. Actually this will affect not only the president but all Turkmen, so let us remember this. If any danger comes to the state, it will strike everyone. So let nobody think that if danger comes, he can stand on the sidelines and wait for it to pass and that everything will be OK. Nothing of the sort.

[Niyazov recalls that his grandfather suffered under Soviet KGB repression; praises Turkmen security service for peaceful solution of difficult issues; describes the protest demonstration in Ashgabat in 1990 as being held under outside influence; Niyazov confers awards on some officials including the head of the NSC, Colonel General Mukhammet Nazarov; video shows Niyazov presenting them awards; Niyazov then shown driving a car to go to next meeting scheduled at the Police Academy; welcome ceremony; Niyazov then shown addressing senior officials and saying that the crime rate in Turkmenistan had fallen 10 percent in 2000; the police academy must have 600 students and a teacher for every three to four students to train high-quality specialists; outsiders have fostered artificial tribal discord in Turkmenistan over the last three centuries; police agencies have to deal with drug traffickers and with foreign visitors who try to cause discord in the country; prison numbers are to be reduced and criminals to be made to repent; Niyazov says that policemen need a different uniform.]

"[Niyazov:] I have just told the [interior] minister, Poran Berdiyev, that within the next two months a new police uniform has to be brought in. Your present uniform is a very faded color. It should be of an attractive color. The uniforms to be designed for the interior and defense ministries, for the National Security Committee and for the Border Troops need to be for two seasons -- one for the hot summer season, and another for the winter, spring, and autumn.

[Niyazov orders textile minister, Jamal Goklenova (Dzhamal Geoklenova), to provide the necessary quality material for the uniforms; the Police Academy is to get another new building within two or three years; repeat about a possible danger from internal discord caused by outside influences; Niyazov praises the good work of the police; Interior Minister Berdiyev thanks Niyazov for his concern; farewell ceremony] (Turkmen TV)

26 January 2001

Three monuments to Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov have been erected in the city center to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the republic's armed forces.

The monuments were put up at the Office of the Prosecutor-General, near the National Security Committee, and the Police Academy.

The opening ceremony was attended by the speaker of the republic's parliament, Sakhat Muradov. He urged law enforcers to be committed to their motherland, people and president. (ITAR-TASS)

24 January 2001

Today Turkmen President Saparmurat Turkmenbashi [Niyazov] received the head of the German company Wintershall, Peter Burri, [as transliterated], who presented to the head of state proposals for cooperation in extracting the hydrocarbon resources of the Turkmen sector of the Caspian Sea. These were put together in the course of direct talks following the international presentations of geophysical research into the sea's hydrocarbon resources. These presentations took place in oil and gas business centers in Europe and the U.S. last year.

Welcoming the proposals by the German company, Saparmurat Turkmenbashi noted that the hydrocarbon raw material resources of the Caspian were a priority area of the development of the Turkmen oil and gas sector in the new century. [A mechanism for licensing offshore drilling was drawn up in 2000, no further details given.]

The existence of huge oil and gas resources in the Turkmen sector of the sea was scientifically confirmed, which strengthened and increased potential investors' interest in this promising area. More than 40 oil companies expressed their readiness to cooperate.

The orientation of Wintershall for long-term partnership was also because of the great amount of subsurface hydrocarbons in Turkmenistan, the head of the German company said. Another important factor is the existence of the perfect legislative basis for doing mutually-beneficial business, including that on the terms of a production-sharing agreement. Wintershall expects to become an operator in the development of a promising sector of the sea, Burri noted. He assured the Turkmen head of state that his company, which is a subsidiary of the major chemical corporation BASF, has extensive experience in dealing with the technical, financial and commercial aspects of drawing up projects to develop oil and gas deposits, including those in the sea. (Turkmen State News Service news agency)

24 January 2001

Here is a decree and some resolutions issued by the head of state, President Saparmurat Niyazov.

Decree by the president of Turkmenistan on Comrade Akmukhammet Durdyev.

Durdyev is appointed chairman of the Turkmenpagta (Turkmen Cotton) state concern.

By resolution of the president of Turkmenistan, Osman Odayev has been appointed editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Turkmen Dunyasi" (World of Turkmen).

In another presidential resolution, Annaberdi Agabaev was relieved of his duties as the newspaper's editor-in-chief owing to his retirement.

(Also included: the Turkmen Cotton concern was authorized to purchase chemicals for processing cottonseed; the Turkmen weather forecasting chief was reprimanded for poor work.) (Turkmen TV)

By Felix Corley, Keston News Service editor
31 January 2001

Ashgabat Pentecostal pastor and foreign diplomats who attended the appeal hearing this morning (31 January) at Ashgabat city court are surprised but cautiously optimistic over the judge's ruling that the Pentecostal church confiscation case should be sent back to the lower court as its earlier ruling was flawed. Pastor Viktor Makrousov had appealed against the 4 January ruling by the court of Ashgabat's Kopetdag district that the church be confiscated without compensation.

The judge who heard the Makrousov appeal sent the case back to the district court on the grounds that the lower court's decision was flawed -- that it was not based on the actual complaint filed by the prosecutor that the state of the house where the church met was dangerous, focusing instead on the fact that what the prosecutor believed to be "illegal" religious activity was taking place in the house. "I would interpret this as recognition that the way they put together the justification for the confiscation was simply improper," Bess Brown of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Ashgabat Center told the Keston News Service on 31 January.

"Everyone was surprised by the ruling -- no one had ever heard of sending a case back to a lower court in this country," declared Brown, one of three OSCE representatives to attend the hearing. "Everywhere else it is normal procedure, but here it is never heard of."

Brown reported that the judge was "very professional and polite," and invited Pastor Makrousov to present any written documents in support of his case. The pastor maintained that the accusations that he had remodeled the house illegally and was conducting religious activity in the house illegally were false.

The representative from the Prosecutor's Office continued to insist on the original accusations, declaring that the Makrousovs ought to be evicted because they were using the house for religious purposes, the congregation was not registered because it did not meet the 500 member threshold specified in the religion law and the reconstruction of the house had not been done for personal use. Asked whether there had actually been any complaints from neighbors about alleged excessive noise from religious services, as had been claimed, she admitted that there had not. However, she claimed that neighbors would have been entitled to have made such complaints.

Also present in court, together with the Pentecostals and the foreign diplomats was Adventist Pastor Pavel Fedotov (whose own church in the same district of Ashgabat was demolished without a court order in November 1999) and a visiting Adventist delegation from the Kazakh capital Almaty, who rushed to the courtroom straight from the airport. No attempt was made this time to obstruct the diplomats from entering the courtroom.

No date has yet been set for the new hearing to take place in the Kopetdag district court.