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Serdar Berdymukhammedov (file photo)

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has appointed his son Serdar to head the Ministry of Industry and Construction, state media in the gas-rich Central Asian nation reported on February 8.

His promotion comes less than a year after Serdar Berdymukhammedov, 38, assumed the post of a provincial governor.

His rapid rise has sparked speculation that the 62-year-old autocratic president is preparing him as a successor.

In his new job, Serdar Berdymukhammedov is likely to oversee the ambitious project of building a new capital from scratch for the central Ahal region, which he used to head.

Prior to becoming Ahal's governor, Serdar Berdymukhammedov served as Ahal's deputy governor and the deputy foreign minister.

He also currently holds a seat in parliament.

President Berdymukhammedov this week signed a decree allocating nearly $1.5 billion for imports of construction materials, equipment, and other items needed for the new city.

The Berdymukhammedov family comes from the Ahal region.

The move comes amid the government's policy of limiting imports against a backdrop of foreign currency shortages and depressed energy prices.

Berdymukhammedov, 62, has run the former Soviet republic since 2006, tolerating no dissent and becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult. Turkmen often refer to him as Arkadag (The Protector).

Government critics and human rights groups say Berdymukhammedov has suppressed dissent and made few changes in the secretive country since he came to power after the death of autocrat Saparmurat Niyazov.

Like his late predecessor, Berdymukhammedov has relied on subsidized prices for basic goods and utilities to help maintain his grip on power.

According to Human Rights Watch, Berdymukhammedov, "his relatives, and their associates control all aspects of public life, and the authorities encroach on private life."

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Investigators suspect military medic Yana Duhar and two other people of involvement in the killing of the journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kyiv.

Lawyers of a Ukrainian Army medic suspected of involvement in the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet say they have "additional proof" that their client had nothing to do with the high-profile killing.

Sheremet was killed on July 20, 2016, when an improvised explosive device planted under the vehicle he was driving exploded.

Investigators suspect military medic Yana Duhar and two other people of involvement in the killing, all of them with ties to the war taking place in eastern Ukraine.

Duhar's lawyers, Mykola Orekhovskiy and Vitaliy Kolomiyets, told reporters in Kyiv on February 7 that they provided the Prosecutor-General's Office with materials that "prove" their client had not been involved in Sheremet's assassination.

The materials included the results of a lie detector test, they said.

The lawyers said the investigators had "mistakenly" identified a person recorded on CCTV camera monitoring Sheremet's apartment block a day before his killing as their client.

Independent forensic tests "proved that the person on the tape is 10 centimeters higher" than Duhar, they said.

Sheremet was a Belarusian-born Russian citizen who had made Kyiv his permanent home.

His killing underscored concerns of a climate of impunity for attacks on journalists and others who challenge the Ukrainian authorities, while the government has faced persistent criticism over a perceived lack of progress in solving the case.

Journalist Pavel Sheremet Killed By Car Bomb In Kyiv
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Those suspected in the case also include former special operations Sergeant Andriy Antonenko and pediatric surgeon and volunteer Yuliya Kuzmenko.

Police have also named a couple as persons of interest in the investigation: Inna and Vladyslav Hryshchenko.

On January 30, Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said additional evidence is needed for the case as "the volume of compiled evidence isn’t enough."

Sheremet's mother, Lyudmila Sheremet, told RFE/RL in December that she did not know if the suspects are guilty or not, but she was afraid "that innocent people may be hurt" as officials try to show they're making headway in the case.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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