Turkmenistan. According to
CountryAAH, Russia's and Ukraine's gas conflict at the
beginning of the year opened up opportunities for
Turkmenistan to increase its gas exports to Ukraine.
However, analysts questioned whether Turkmenistan has as
large gas reserves as the regime claimed. President Saparmurat Nijazov made one of his few visits to Moscow in
January, where he discussed gas deals with his Russian
colleague Vladimir Putin. Turkmenistan already supplies a
lot of gas to Russia but has demanded higher prices, a
reflection of the Russian demands on neighboring countries.
In April, Nijazov continued his unusual trip to Beijing,
where he signed an agreement on a pipeline to supply the
energy-consuming Chinese economy with gas from Turkmenistan.
Following a prolonged price dispute, Turkmenistan signed
a new agreement with Russian Gazprom in September, which
agreed to an increase from $ 65 to $ 100 for 1,000 m 3
of gas. Turkmenistan had threatened to suspend
deliveries unless Gazprom agreed to the increase.
During the year there were purges in the power apparatus,
where former loyal employees of Nijazov were dismissed.
During the summer, a number of human rights activists
were arrested under various pretexts. Among the arrested
were also radio journalist Ogulsapar Muradova, who, after a
few minutes of trial, was sentenced to five years in prison
accused of illegal possession of ammunition. In September,
she died in prison. Her child stated that she had marks on
her neck and a large wound in her head. However, according
to official data, Muradova died of "natural causes". Her
radio station Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is US-funded
with the stated mission of promoting democracy in i.a.
former Soviet Union. The authoritarian one-party state of
Turkmenistan does not allow independent media. According to
Reporters Without Borders, the country has the world's
second worst press freedom after North Korea.
In the autumn, the European Parliament refused to approve
a trade agreement between the EU and Turkmenistan, citing
the oppression of human rights in the country. Turkmenistan
was urged to release political prisoners and give freedom
for independent organizations to operate.
In December, President Saparmurat Nijazov died in a heart
attack. Nijazov was one of the world's most intrinsic
one-world rulers, but immediately after his departure there
was no sign of political change in Turkmenistan. Acting
President became Gurbanguly Berdimuchammedov. Parliament
decided that Nijazov's regular successor should be elected
in the February 2007 presidential elections.