Turkmenistan: Fate of Russians on Summit Agenda
Among the topics on the agenda for the Turkmen-Russian summit in Moscow December 23 was the plight of Russian-speakers living in Turkmenistan, Moscow News (MN) writer Arkady Dubnov reported.
The Turkmen Foreign Ministry denounced MN's claim in a December 14 article that Russians with dual Russian and Turkmen citizenship would be forced to leave Turkmenistan if they chose to keep Russian citizenship, as new Turkmen legislation barred recognition of dual status.
Yet in fact, the Ministry's subsequent statement confirmed MN's concerns that Turkmenistan is in the final stages of a campaign to force out Russian-speakers. Ashgabat claims that the 1993 agreement between Turkmenistan and Russia on dual citizenship was designed to resolve residential, property and family issues for those leaving Turkmenistan. But this interpretation isn't grounded in the text of the agreement, and Turkmenistan unilaterally withdrew from its enforcement in 2003.
According to MN's sources, Moscow was prepared to start legal consultations for citizens caught by the new policy, but Ashgabat was uninterested in cooperation. The Kremlin has not pushed the issue on behalf of its citizens for the last two decades, and accordingly, the status of the Russians in Turkmenistan rose and fall on the fate of gas-price negotiations. With gas consumption down in Europe, and facing competition from China, the Russian government isn't buying Turkmen gas, and doesn’t have leverage to lobby for its citizens.