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Turkmen Report: May 13, 2003

13 May 2003
Three Days Of Talks On Caspian Sea Scheduled In Almaty
12 May 2003

Representatives from the five nations that border the resource-rich Caspian Sea are scheduled to open three days of talks in Almaty on 12 May, Interfax and AFP reported the same day. Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia have agreed the legal status of the Caspian Sea should be defined before any country starts to develop its vast energy resources. But no treaty has yet been signed and all have instead made bilateral agreements. Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov last week told Interfax that an agreement is not expected to be signed at the latest round of talks. (Interfax, AFP)

Former Political Prisoner Comments On His Stay In Niyazov's Torture Chambers
10 May 2003

On 10 May, RFE/RL Turkmen Service interviewed by telephone Leonid Komarovsky, a U.S. businessman who was arrested in Turkmenistan last year in connection with the November 2002 attack on the motorcade in which Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov was driving. Komarovsky was among the first suspects who was released from prison. Komarovsky said that he was arrested on 26 November in Ashgabat, where he was on a business trip, and released on 24 April of this year. "I have declared a war on Turkmenbashi [Niyazov]," Komarovsky said during the interview. According to Komarovsky, he was compelled to beg for Niyazov's pardon on Turkmen national television -- the text of his confession was written for him in advance. Komarovsky said it was difficult to make such a confession, but he was guided by the sole desire "to break free from hell" at any cost, to save himself, and to tell the world about the terrible situation in Turkmenistan. Komarovsky has finished writing a book, where he describes brutality, torture, and the administration of psychotropic drugs in prison.

Turkmenistan Marks Memorial Day
8 May 2003

Memorial Day, commemorating those who lost their lives in World War II, was marked in Turkmenistan on 8 May, ITAR-TASS and reported the same day. The people of Turkmenistan paid memorial tribute to 740,000 natives of the republic who perished in the war. This holiday was instituted in 2000 by presidential decree and precedes the Victory Day festivities, which are marked on 9 May. (ITAR-TASS,

Turkmenistan Doubles Pensions, Benefits In May
7 May 2003

Pensions and social welfare benefits have been doubled in Turkmenistan from 1 May, Interfax reported on 7 May, citing a government source. President Niyazov signed a decree to this effect at a cabinet meeting the day before, said the source. The republic's Social Welfare Ministry reported that the minimum retirement pension before 1 May was 100,000 manats ($20) a month and the maximum for war veterans and privileged pensioners amounted to 800,000 manats a month. From 1 January 2003, in Turkmenistan, pay has doubled in both the state and private sectors, the agency reported. The minimum wage is 1.5 million manats a month. The official exchange rate is 5,200 manats to the U.S. dollar, or 18,500 manats on the black market.

Turkmen Lake Project Marks Its Third Birthday
6 May 2003

President Niyazov's scheme to create a freshwater lake in a salt depression in northern Turkmenistan has been under way now for three years, reported on 6 May, citing the Turkmen Water Management Ministry. The project is planned to take 20 years and cost $4.5 billion. According to the report, the first water is expected to arrive in what is to become the lake bed in 18 months. The project is intended to collect irrigation-drainage water from agricultural areas in the Karashor Depression, which lies in the Karakum Desert far from any habitation. The Water Management Ministry considers that this lake will radically change the ameliorative condition of the irrigated ground all over the country, improve the region's ecological situation, and create a basis for improving the agricultural and cattle-breeding branches. (

Drivers Forbidden To Smoke In Turkmenistan
5 May 2003

As of 1 May, new traffic rules have gone into effect in Turkmenistan, reported on 5 May. In addition to standardizing traffic signs in accordance with international practice and setting rules for the precedence of vehicles at intersections, the new laws forbid drivers from smoking, using mobile phones, and listening to loud music. According to the report, the changes are intended to improve safety. (