Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turkmen Report: February 7, 2001

7 February 2001
Medium-Wave Broadcasts To Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

3 February 2001

RFE/RL will broadcast to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on medium wave (commercial AM band) beginning 5 February 2001. Turkmen-language broadcasts are scheduled for 0200-0300 UTC (0300-0400 CET) and Uzbek-language broadcasts for 0100-0200 UTC (0200-0300 CET). The frequency is: 864 kHz. The programs will be available on Hotbird on EU22 and Virtual Channel 271, Output 1 Right. (RFE/RL)

Turkmenistan Airways: Fleet Addition Completed

2 February 2001

The seventh Boeing aircraft in the Turkmenistan Airways fleet arrived in Ashgabat from Seattle. The plane has a flight range of 7,000 kilometers and will make flights to London and New York. Since 1994, Turkmenistan�s fleet of Boeing aircraft has grown to include three 737s and four 757s, according to an unnamed source in Turkmenistan�s national airlines. At the contract-signing ceremony last year, Turkmenistan�s President Saparmurat Niyazov disclosed that his country would buy three 717s for intra-regional flights, specifically to Tashkent, Tehran, and Baku. (Itar-Tass)

Ukraine: More Please, Sir

2 February 2001

A delegation of top officials from Ukraine�s oil and gas and construction industries met with Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to discuss implementation of an existing gas supply agreement and future cooperation. Among those visiting Ashgabat were Vadim Kopylov, deputy minister of fuel and energy and head of Ukraine�s oil and gas concern Neftegaz Ukrainy. His counterparts from the construction companies Ukraziyastroy and Interstroymontazh were also in attendance. Kopylov was quoted as saying his company aimed to boost Turkmen gas imports to 50-60 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year. At present, Turkmenistan has agreed to supply 30 bcm. According to press reports, an undefined bilateral cooperation accord between the sides will be signed when Niyazov visits Kiev in May 2001. Turkmenistan has reportedly supplied Ukraine with 5.5 bcm since October 2000. (Turkmen TV)

Pay Per View

2 February 2001

Starting 1 February, Uzbek citizens must pay the equivalent of $6 to obtain a permit to enter Turkmenistan. In accordance with a presidential decree instituting this new practice, the fee is payable in Turkmen currency at the exchange rate on the date of entry. (RFE/RL)

Hunt For Fugitive Pastor�

1 February 2001

Police in Ashgabat arrested Protestant Christian Nikolai Ognev on 29 January, apparently believing that he knows the whereabouts of fugitive Pastor Shokhrat Piriev, whom the authorities are seeking. Piriev went into hiding late last year after he and two colleagues from the Bezmein church near Ashgabat were tortured by Turkmen security officials and evicted from their homes. (Keston News/See "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 January 2001)

...Backtracks On Church Confiscation

1 February 2001

The Ashgabat City Court on 31 January returned to a lower district court for review a ruling handed down four weeks earlier that the home of Pentecostal Pastor Viktor Makrousov be confiscated. The city court termed that ruling, against which Makrousov had appealed, "flawed." (Keston News/ See Features and Analyses below)

Five Cardinal Principles Of Turkmen Patriotism

1 February 2001

A Turkmen scholar writing in the government-controlled newspaper "Adalat [Justice]", delineated the five cardinal principals of Turkmen patriotism, which he likened to the five duties of faithful Muslims. First, be honest and conscientious. Second, put one�s all into routine work and do not place self-interest above that of the homeland. Third, be tolerant and modest. Fourth, treat everyone equally regardless of nationality, age, or religion. Fifth, observe all national traditions. The author opined that only those following all five principals were justified in holding high office and that under the wise reign of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, dishonesty in the land will be eliminated. (Adalat)

Turkish Polimeks To The Rescue

1 February 2001

Turkey�s Polimeks has signed an agreement with Turkmenistan�s Ministry of Economy and Finance to build two luxury 12-story apartment buildings in Ashgabat. The company has committed to complete the construction work by 27 October 2001, the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan�s declaration of independence. The two buildings are among over 200 priority projects that are to be completed by that deadline. (

Human Rights Primer

30 January 2001

A seminar held in Ashgabat, the second of its kind organized by the official Turkmen National Institute of Democracy and Human Rights and local representatives of international organizations in Ashgabat, examined human rights in international law. (Turkmen State News Service)

E & P Activity

30 January 2001

Exploration arm Turkmenburgaz has begun exploration drilling at Darganata in northeastern Turkmenistan, north of Lebap. Exploration drilling and prospecting work is also underway in Yangui and Sandykly in eastern Turkmenistan. Three exploration wells being drilled at Yashyldepe will be completed in 2001. Downstream, a facility to produce 360,000 tons of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from the Kirpichli gas field in eastern Turkmenistan is also underway, reportedly. (Turkmen State News Agency)

Mother As Justice Symbol

30 January 2001

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 a national symbol of justice. 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. (Itar-Tass/ AFP)

Niyazov On Drugs and Religion�

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 acting together in 2000, President Saparmurat Niyazov is quoted as saying in a nationally televised speech. Alongside these efforts to "poison" the population, ongoing efforts to "disturb the peace of mind," were in evidence he noted, pointing out that "last year, 350,000 religious books incompatible with our faith and about 80,000 video cassettes" entered the republic. He went on to note that of nearly 1 million foreign visitors, 10,000 were arrested and expelled for fomenting disorder by the KNB. (Interfax)

�Therefore Boosts KNB Forces, Articulates Need For Modern, Mobile Army

29 January 2001

Considering the multiple threats and small number of KNB men fighting the war on drugs and protecting the "constitutional system" -- put at 1,500 -- Niyazov has pledged to strengthen their hand by increasing their number by 1,000. The latter are to support the work of Velayat (provincial) KNB units. Niyazov also stressed that Turkmenistan needs a mobile army no more than 50,000 strong but equipped with advanced arms. He pointed out that the main task at present is "to prevent internal strife". The Turkmen army is about 90,000 strong presently. (Interfax)

Debt Settlement Talks

27 January 2001

A Kazakh government delegation led by First Deputy Finance Minister Bolat Zhamishev arrived in Ashgabat for discussions expected to focus on bilateral debts and repayment mechanisms. According to Turkmenistan's Central Bank, Kazakhstan�s debt as of 1 January 2001 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)

New Monuments Pop Up

26 January 2001

Three monuments to Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov have been erected 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. (Itar-Tass)

Wintershall�s Man Visits Turkmenbashi

24 January 2001

Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov hosted Peter Burri, head of upstart German gas marketer and pipeline company Wintershall, in Ashgabat. According to Burri, Wintershall expects to become an operator in the development of an unidentified promising sector of the Caspian. Wintershall, owned jointly by chemical giant BASF and Russia�s Gazprom, has eroded market dominance of Germany�s Ruhrgas, which itself owns equity in Gazprom and is the company�s single biggest customer in its single largest market in Europe. (Turkmen State News Agency)

Head Of State Cotton Concern Named

24 January 2001

In accordance with a resolution issued by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov, Akmukhammet Durdyyev has been appointed chairman of the Turkmenpagta, the state cotton concern. (Turkmen TV)

Turkmenistan: Detention, Then Deportation For Returning Baptists

31 January 2001

By Felix Corley, Keston News Service editor

A Baptist revisiting Turkmenistan, where he had lived during the 1990s, was detained by border guards at Ashgabat airport as he was about to leave the country on 26 January. They said that the validity of his passport had expired.

Pyotr Kashin, a Russian citizen who formerly served as pastor of the Baptist congregation in the Caspian port city of Turkmenbashi, where he was still officially registered as living, told Keston News Service that after being questioned by officers of Turkmenistan's political police, the KNB (the former KGB), about his work with the church in the country he had been put on a plane on 29 January and deported. His residence permit had been revoked, with no reason being given.

Kashin reports that despite the pressure on congregations belonging to the Council of Churches of Evangelical Christians/Baptists (of which the Turkmenbashi congregation is a member), the churches are continuing their work. "They are functioning, preaching and conducting baptisms," Kashin declared, "not as we would like, but they are continuing to work for the Lord."

He acknowledged the difficulties following the deportation of all foreign Baptists known to the Turkmen authorities as being active in the church, and the pressure on local Baptists who remain, but remained optimistic. "Christ has not been deported from Turkmenistan. If I'm not there and another brother is not there, God will send someone else."

Kashin told Keston from his new home in the town of Yelets in Russia's Lipetsk region on 31 January that he had arrived by plane in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat on 18 January. Although border guards checked his name against a list of those to be barred from entering the country, Kashin had no problems entering. "They have a list on the computer," Kashin declared. "When we arrived in the airport there was a man named Chernov, and when the name figured on the list he was taken away." It appears this was a case of mistaken identity. Kashin believes the border guards thought the man was connected to Vladimir Chernov, a Baptist from Ashgabat who was deported in December 1999.

Only on departing from Ashgabat on 26 January did Kashin run into problems. He had gone through check-in and reached the final passport control at the airport, when border guards stopped him. The 1978 Soviet passport on which he was traveling had already been checked three times, but they claimed it was no longer valid, something Kashin contests. He was taken to the KNB station in the airport and interrogated. "They said I was undertaking religious propaganda, that I was a religious activist living here simply to be able to preach," Kashin told Keston. "They banned me from preaching and giving out Bibles. I said that Article 11 of Turkmenistan's new constitution guarantees religious freedom."

The KNB officers then asked him to write a detailed statement of what he had done during his visit, giving details of all the believers he had met. He refused.

They then threatened to take him to the special reception center "to verify his identity," although Kashin insisted that they knew very well who he was. The KNB officers eventually decided not to do so and he was allowed to return to Ashgabat. His ticket was rebooked for 29 January. They refused to give Kashin back his passport, although they had already made a copy of it, telling him he would get it back once he had boarded the flight. "I understood then they were going to cancel my registration [to live in Turkmenbashi]."

Kashin moved to Turkmenistan with his wife and nine children in 1996 to lead the Turkmenbashi church. He received a residence permit to live in the city on 16 July 1996. While serving as pastor, he faced constant KNB harassment, including summons for continuing to hold worship services and confiscation of religious literature.

By 1997, he told Keston, it was clear that the Turkmen authorities intended to expel him for his work with the church, despite his legal residency in the country. His wife and children left for Russia in 1998, while he shuttled back and forth between Russia and Turkmenistan, serving the church on his frequent visits. Before his January visit, his most recent previous visit had been in March 2000.

On 29 January Kashin wrote a letter of complaint to Baigeldy Gelenov, consul at the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow, asking for a written explanation of why he was deported, arguing that this violated Turkmenistan's Constitution and international human rights conventions. He has not so far had any response.

A spokesman for the embassy, Grigory Kolodin, confirmed to Keston on 31 January that Gelenov had received the letter and had requested further information from Ashgabat. Kolodin said Gelenov would reply to Kashin as soon as he had received this information. (Keston news service)