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Turkmen WWII Veterans Must Pay For Gifts They'll Receive From President On Victory Day

Turkmen veterans of WWII attend Victory Day commemorations in Ashgabat in May 2018.

ASHGABAT -- World War II veterans in the isolated Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan have been ordered to pay for the gifts they are scheduled to receive on behalf of the authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov at a Victory Day commemoration marked annually on May 9 in a majority of former Soviet republics.

RFE/RL correspondents report from the eastern region of Lebap that local authorities ordered the war veterans and the veterans of labor during the war to collect money for their own gifts.

Last year, authorities in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic ordered the veterans to pay for gifts from the president and medals they received for the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II.

Several people told RFE/RL on condition of anonymity that the amounts requested by the authorities were much higher than the price of the gifts the veterans received from the president last year.

The amount of money and the prices of the gifts for this year remain unclear.

Before 2020, the government gave the veterans 200 manats ($55 at the current official exchange rate and $5.5 at the black market rate) each year on Victory Day as a mark of appreciation for their WWII service.

Authorities in neighboring Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan said earlier that war veterans and veterans of labor during the war will receive equivalents of $950 and $2,350 respectively on May 9.

Russian authorities announced this week that war veterans will receive 10,000 rubles ($135) each on Victory Day this year.

Turkmenistan has been caught up in an economic crisis in recent years despite being home to the world's fourth-largest proven natural gas resources.

The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the situation, though the Turkmen government has denied both the economic crisis and the presence of COVID-19 in the country despite substantial evidence otherwise.

According to Human Rights Watch, Berdymukhammedov, "his relatives and their associates control all aspects of public life, and the authorities encroach on private life."

Turkmen regional authorities recently issued an order saying that lines at state stores could be no longer than four people long after the president's son publicly said that "crowds near stores discredit" his father.