17 June 2003
Rogozin Meets Members Of Turkmen Opposition In Exile
9 June 2003
The chairman of the Russian State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, Dmitrii Rogozin, has met with members of the Turkmen opposition in exile in Russia to explain his committee's concerns about the situation in Turkmenistan, Interfax reported on 9 June. According to the report, the opposition members invited to the meeting included former Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Dodonov, former Oil and Gas Minister Nazar Soyunov, and Larissa Shikhmuradova, the sister of former Foreign Minister Boris Shikhmuradov, who is serving a life sentence for his alleged role in the purported assassination attempt against Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov in November 2002. Rogozin was quoted as telling the exiles that his committee is concerned with three main problems involving Turkmenistan. The first is the revocation of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship, which has resulted in ethnic Russians in Turkmenistan being denied the right to hold Russian citizenship if they want to continue living there. According to Rogozin, this means that Russia must prepare for a large influx of refugees or deportees from Turkmenistan. The second point of concern is the overall state of human rights in Turkmenistan, and the third point is the possible threats to Russian national security that might originate in Central Asia, such as drug trafficking to Russia via Turkmenistan. Russian media and some Russian political figures are investigating the relationship between Turkmenistan and the Taliban and persistent rumors that the Turkmen leadership is involved in the international drug trade. The Duma Foreign Affairs Committee plans to hold hearings on Turkmenistan later in the month. (Interfax)
Russia Insists Turkmenistan's Withdrawal From Citizenship Deal Is Illegal
9 June 2003
On 9 June, Russia said Turkmenistan's decision to annul a dual citizenship agreement is illegal, RTR, ITAR-TASS, and AP reported the same day. There are approximately 100,000 ethnic Russians believed to be living in Turkmenistan, and the government in Moscow said it will continue to regard them as Russian citizens. Vladimir Kotenev, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's consular department, cautioned Turkmenistan that its decision could damage bilateral relations. "We have told our interlocutors that the campaign under way in Turkmenistan to identify people with dual citizenship has caused us deep alarm," Kotenev said. On 22 April, Turkmen President Niyazov gave residents with dual citizenship two months to choose which passport they wanted to keep. The announcement prompted hundreds of people to seek help from Russia's consulate in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat. Kotenev said Turkmenistan promised "nothing extraordinary" will happen after the order comes into force on 22 June. The Turkmen Foreign Ministry on 9 June said it had identified only 47 people with dual citizenship. (RTR, ITAR-TASS, AP)
Russian Embassy In Turkmenistan Begins Issuing Entry Visas
9 June 2003
The consular section of the Russian Embassy in Ashgabat has started issuing entry visas to Russian passport holders living in Turkmenistan, ITAR-TASS reported on 9 June. This action is intended to provide protection for Russian citizens, according to an unnamed source in the consular section. The Russian Foreign Ministry does not recognize the validity of a 22 April decree issued by Niyazov that gives holders of dual citizenship two months to decide which citizenship they want to retain. The protocol that was signed in April terminating the 1993 agreement on dual citizenship has created a difficult legal situation that will require a long time to resolve. (ITAR-TASS)
Turkmenistan Elected Vice-Chairman Of UN General Assembly
8 June 2003
The UN General Assembly elected Turkmenistan vice chairman of its 58th session, which begins on 16 September, turkmenistan.ru reported on 8 June. The chairmanship and vice chairmanship of the assembly rotate among the organization's member states, but Turkmenistan is choosing to interpret its election as recognition of the "great significance of the activity in foreign affairs of Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov" in ensuring stability, security, and the strengthening of cooperation among nations, particularly in Asia. The UN's Commission on Human Rights has called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to raise the issue of Turkmenistan's human rights record in the upcoming General Assembly session, and a report commissioned in 2003 under the OSCE's Moscow Mechanism, in which a group of 10 participating states can request an independent study of another participating state's implementation of human rights standards, has called for the UN General Assembly to re-examine its 1995 recognition of Turkmenistan's status as a neutral country. (Turkmenistan.ru)
General Electric Signs Long-Term Agreement With Turkmenistan
8 June 2003
The U.S.-based multinational General Electric has signed an agreement with the Turkmen government and a Turkish firm closely allied with Niyazov to participate in Turkmenistan's plan to develop the country's electro-energy potential up to 2011, turkmenistan.ru reported on 8 June. At a ceremony connected with the signing of the agreement, Niyazov noted that General Electric has been working in Turkmenistan since the mid-1990s, modernizing the power plant at Bezmein near Ashgabat, and the petrochemical plant in Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk). The Turkish partner in the newly signed agreement is Chalyk Energy, one of the many firms set up in Turkmenistan by Ahmet Chalyk, one of Niyazov's closest associates. The three partners plan to set up a single enterprise that will expand the electricity output of all of Turkmenistan's existing power plants and build new ones in Ashgabat and Dashoguz. Turkmenistan recently increased its sales of electricity to Iran and hopes to expand exports to Afghanistan, Turkey, and possibly other countries. The development plan that the three partners are to fulfill, envisions an increase in the country's electricity production of 35 to 40 percent by 2011, at a cost estimated at $600 million. (Turkmenistan.ru)
Clock Ticking As Ashgabat Refuses To Budge On Dual-Citizenship Ban
11 June 2003
By Farangis Najibullah
Moscow says it does not recognize Ashgabat's unilateral decision to abolish its dual-citizenship agreement with Moscow.
A delegation from the Russian Foreign Ministry visited Turkmenistan last weekend to discuss the issue with their Turkmen counterparts, but apparently walked away empty-handed. Turkmen officials continue to insist on a unilateral withdrawal from the agreement and have proposed setting up a special commission to oversee the termination of dual citizenship.
Ashgabat's decision to terminate the dual-citizenship agreement was announced in April during a meeting between Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian-speaking residents of Turkmenistan holding dual citizenship were given two months to choose which passport they would give up. Hundreds of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers have been seeking advice from Russian consulates in Turkmenistan ever since. The deadline falls on 22 June.
After their failed meeting with Turkmen authorities, the Russian Foreign Ministry officials reassured the country's Russian speakers that "nothing extraordinary" would befall them after 22 June. Observers, however, say that Russian speakers are growing increasingly anxious as the 22 June deadline nears.
Anatoli Fomin, the former head of the Russkaya Obschina (Russian Community) group in Turkmenistan and currently working for the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights organization, tells RFE/RL that Turkmenistan's dual citizens have been left in a no-win situation: "If you give up your Turkmen citizenship, they will not allow you to sell your flat, you will get sacked from your job. In Russia, people can at least find a source of income by growing potatoes. But that's impossible in Turkmenistan; there's only sand everywhere. Ethnic Russians live only in cities. They don't have land in rural areas. They would die of hunger if they lost their jobs."
Fomin says Russian speakers will be treated as second-class citizens even if they decide to give up their Russian passports and continue to live in Turkmenistan as Turkmen citizens: "If you decide to give up Russian citizenship, the Turkmen authorities will send your application to the Russian Embassy, and the embassy will dissolve your Russian citizenship. You will still be sacked from your job, but in this case you will have nowhere to complain."
Filip Noubel, an International Crisis Group (ICG) observer based in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, says that Russian speakers -- including thousands of Turkmens -- are facing a tough choice, because they will simply be cut off from the outside world if they decide to retain their Turkmen citizenship: "I don't think we are exaggerating at all, because the dual citizenship was a sort of hope for many people and they knew that if the situation gets worse [in Turkmenistan], they could always leave for Russia. It was also good from an economical point of view; many people conduct businesses between Russia and Turkmenistan, many people study in Russia. It was an important channel of communication with the rest of the world. Now all of those channels will be cut and Turkmenistan will be even more isolated than ever."
Many Russian speakers gathered around the Russian Embassy in April, after the initial announcement by the Turkmen government. They said they do not want to stay in Turkmenistan forever, but are not sure they will be able to settle in Russia. Tens of thousands of Russians who left the former Soviet republics in the 1990s have had difficulty finding proper employment and housing in Russia: "We've been left here and we don't know what to do. The people who had money left [Turkmenistan] a long time ago and left us here. It is so sad. We are not wanted here, and we are not wanted there either."
Vyacheslav Mamedov, the head of the Flamingo nongovernmental organization in the Turkmen town of Krasnovodsk, tells RFE/RL that many Russian speakers in his neighborhood have decided to leave the country: "Since many dual citizens have relatives in Russia, the decree makes it difficult for them to communicate with their relatives, and of course they are worried about it. After the decree was issued, even those Russian speakers who wanted to stay in Turkmenistan for ever have started to think about packing and emigrating to the Russian Federation, because they have lost their hope for the future." The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has played down such concerns, saying only 47 people in the country hold both Turkmen and Russian citizenship. But Russia estimates that at least 100,000 Russian speakers live in Turkmenistan -- a number confirmed by the ICG's Noubel. (RFE/RL)