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Turkmen President Fires Longtime Energy-Sector Official

Yashigeldy Kakaev
Yashigeldy Kakaev

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov has fired his leading energy official for "weak control" of the country's important oil-and-gas sector, state media reports.

The state-controlled Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper on April 6 said the president cited "shortcomings in supervising" the sector on the part of Yashigeldy Kakaev, the deputy prime minister for energy.

Maksat Babaev, the outgoing chief of the Turkmengaz state gas company, will replace Kakaev, the reports said.

The energy sector accounts for more than 90 percent of the ex-Soviet country's exports.

The country of more than 5 million people -- bordering Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan – has been hit hard by a prolonged slump in natural gas prices, which have fallen almost 50 percent since 2014.

Turkmenistan, nevertheless, has insisted on exporting natural gas at pre-2014 prices, leading to the loss of Russia and Iran as customers and leaving essentially just China.

The firing of Kakaev, a respected energy industry veteran, from such a crucial position could have wide-ranging impact on the economy.

Kakaev became chief of the energy sector in 2015 after serving in several other top energy-related positions over the past 20 years. He has been credited with driving big gains in the sector.

Luca Anceschi, a professor of Central Asian studies at Glasgow University, told RFE/RL that Kakaev's dismissal "certifies the ultimate failure of Berdymukhammedov’s energy policy."

"It is a sign of regime denial, as Kakaev's failures are not attributable to personal shortcomings," Anceschi added. "They relate most directly to the implementation of a policy course that was flawed at its very onset."

With reporting by AFP and AP

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