Turkmen VIP Plane to Make Two Flights to Germany

A Turkmen government Bombardier Challenger 870 (tail number EZ-B024), operated by Turkmenistan Airlines, will fly to Munich on November 26 and 29, according to turkmen.news sources in Turkey. Both flights will include a stop in Istanbul. On November 26 the flight will land in Istanbul en route to Munich, but return directly to Ashgabat. The second flight, on November 29, will land in Istanbul on both the outward and return journeys.

Munich airport, August 27, 2020

There is no information about the purpose of the flights, but they will both be “medical” flights, according to sources in Turkmenistan. On August 27 the same plane brought five doctors from Munich to Turkmenbashi. Also on board were several boxes bearing the logo of U.S. firm Promega, a manufacturer of technology for the study and identification of viruses, including COVID-19, and some ten boxes of sterile medical equipment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has made no public statement about any agreement on a November visit by its delegation to Turkmenistan. Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, has not mentioned any plans on his Twitter account either. According to turkmen.news sources inside the country, doctors visit Turkmenistan “in a private capacity”.

According to the official position of the Turkmen authorities, COVID-19 has not reached Turkmenistan. In mid-November, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov repeated this view in a speech at the opening of a new district hospital building. Turkmenistan and North Korea remain the only countries with populations greater than one million to insist there is no coronavirus on their territory. The virus has not been found either in approximately ten small island states.

Nevertheless, turkmen.news has managed to reliably confirm the deaths of 41 people and we name them in the remembrance section of our website. In reality there are probably far more victims of this epidemic. Access to information from this closed state is extremely difficult and there is no opportunity to confirm or rule out reports of deaths. The majority of the population do not have free access to the Internet or contact with independent media at all.

According to as yet unconfirmed reports received recently by turkmen.news, another two doctors died in Turkmenistan in the summer — a family doctor at polyclinic No. 6, subordinate to the Railway Hospital in Turkmenabat (turkmen.news knows the doctor’s name), and the head of the Turkmenabat forensic medical service (turkmen.news does not know his name).

After the district hospital opening ceremony, which was addressed by Berdimuhamedov, a closed meeting was held by heads and deputy heads of regional health administrations and chief doctors of regional infectious diseases hospitals. That meeting referred more or less directly to the presence of COVID-19. However, it was stressed that as before the diagnosis should be shown in records as “pneumonia”.

A WHO mission visited Turkmenistan in July, although it took several months to obtain agreement to the trip. The experts were allowed to inspect several hospitals, but their patients with COVID-19 symptoms had been removed in advance, according to independent sources. The WHO representatives did not insist on the presence of coronavirus, but advised officials to act as though the infection had already reached the country. Since then quite strict quarantine measures have been applied in Turkmenistan.

In August in online meetings with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the regional director for Europe Hans Kluge, Berdimuhamedov agreed to receive another WHO mission and to allow it to carry out independent testing for COVID-19. However, the visit has not yet taken place.