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Amid Pandemic, Turkmenistan Holds Mass Exercise Events To Mark World Health Day

Cyclists were out in force in Turkmenistan to mark World Health Day on April 7.
Cyclists were out in force in Turkmenistan to mark World Health Day on April 7.

Turkmenistan has organized a series of mass exercise events to mark World Health Day, even as countries across the globe impose physical-distancing measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The gas-rich Central Asian country claims to have no registered cases of the virus and has sought to silence any discussion about the pandemic.

Authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, who was shown on state television riding a horse and biking with a small group of officials on April 7, only mentioned the coronavirus for the first time last week.

State media reported that 3,500 cyclists in the capital, Ashgabat, and 7,000 others around the country bicycled together on April 7 "to demonstrate their commitment to the principles of a healthy lifestyle."

In other events, state media reported sports competitions in parks, gymnastics and acrobatic demonstrations, and judo, boxing and wrestling competitions.

RFE/RL correspondents in the capital reported last week that people talking in public about the pandemic were being quickly whisked away by plainclothes agents.

Turkmenistan's government sealed off Ashgabat on March 20 without any public announcement by authorities or state media about the reasons for the closure.

Traffic between the country’s provinces has been restricted as well, with checkpoints set up on highways.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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