Billions Splashed on Grandiose Building Projects in Turkmenistan Despite President’s Call to Scale Back
More than 26 million U.S. dollars were allocated to maintain Turkmenistan’s embassies and consulates abroad in 2020. These figures are given in documents from Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs which are in turkmen.news’ possession.
Of this sum, $18,408,286 were allocated to the upkeep of diplomatic missions in the CIS countries, Turkey, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and the USA. Embassies in Europe were allocated 5,100,686 euros ($6.1 million), and 1,267,856 pound sterling ($1.7 million) went to the embassy in London. We give a more detailed breakdown by country below.
Most expensive was the embassy in Moscow, which received almost $1,768,464 in 2020. The consulates in the Russian cities of Kazan and Astrakhan received $399,640 and $267,056 respectively.
Turkmenistan’s permanent mission to the UN in New York received $1,372,208. The permanent mission to the UN in Geneva received 931,874 euros ($1.1 million).
Over $1.1 million were allocated to the General Consulate in Dubai and the embassy in Tokyo respectively. Turkmenistan’s embassy in the USA received more than $1 million, as did the embassy in Germany more or less — 886,024 euros. Slightly less was spent on maintaining the embassies in Belgium (768,200 euros) and France (629,500 euros).
One of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s sons-in-law is the current consul general in Dubai, and another son-in-law is counselor at the embassy in London. The counselor in London, Dovlet Atabayev, and his wife, embassy first secretary Oguljahan Atabayeva, were caught on camera in autumn 2019 breaking traffic regulations in the British capital. The consul general in Dubai, Ykhlasgeldy Amanov, is married to the president’s youngest daughter – Guljahan.
Diplomats in Turkey, which is the most popular destination for Turkmen labor migrants, manage with more modest funds. A total of $637,248 was allocated to the embassy in Ankara in 2020 and almost $531,000 to the consulate in Istanbul.
The lowest sum of all went to the general consulate in the Iranian city of Mashad ($238,000) and the embassy in Bishkek (almost $279,000). Two consulates in Afghanistan (in Herat and Mazar-i Sharif) received $226,000 and $212,000 respectively. The consulate in the Kazakh city of Aktau can also be included in the “poor” list as it received $265,000. But the Turkmen embassy in the Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan received a larger sum — almost $499,000.
The documents also reveal that $2.5 million was allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cover fees to international organizations and expenditure on relations with the foreign media. In 2020, $15,800 was spent on cooperation with the Russia Today TV channel, $11,700 on the Russian Interfax agency, $5,000 on ITAR-TASS, and $4,800 on both the Factiva analytical agency (which gathers news from 157 countries in 23 languages) and Azerbaijani agency Trend.
It’s worth mentioning that Turkmenistan’s citizens frequently complain about the unsatisfactory work of diplomats. Embassies and consulates do not replace citizens’ expired passports, which turns them into undocumented migrants (they have good reason to think that if they return to Turkmenistan to renew their passports they will not be allowed to leave the country again). The evacuation of citizens stranded abroad because of the COVID-19 pandemic is badly organized. There are very few evacuation flights, and money is sometimes extorted from travelers for a seat. Turkmen citizens who get into difficulties abroad cannot usually rely on help from diplomats. Moreover, embassy staff work with the special services, helping them to follow and persecute migrants who criticize the ruling regime.
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