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Why doesn't Russia broadcast Turkmen television?

It seems that Dmitriy Rogozin's resting on his laurels, which he won thanks to a PR campaign over the problems of the Turkmen-Russian dual citizenship Agreement termination (it was not our but Vladimir Putin's remark who called it a "self-advertisement" campaign of some politicians) discomforts his colleague from the State Duma, head of the CIS committee Andrei Kokoshin.

It was clear from his interview to one of the federal newspapers. Although Andrei Kokoshin cannot be compared to Dmitriy Rogozin, whose political extremism has long been his business card, the head of the CIS committee, nevertheless, did not miss a chance to accuse the Turkmen Government of sins, which were not always true to the fact.

Surely, the Russian speaking population problem in every former USSR republic (independent states at present) is a delicate and quite painful topic both for Russia and its partners from the CIS. Every wrong or provocative word said by politicians or written by journalists could become a detonator of negative events as, for example, in the case with anti-Turkmen hysteria unleashed in the Russian mass media at the initiative of Rogozin. Russians living in Turkmenistan, who used to trust press reports, unfortunately have taken panic statements and gossip at its face value and started to pack. It has resulted in the real estate prices fall, unsuccessful resettling and attempts to move back.

Fortunately, the Russian diplomats, who had endeavored to conduct a quiet and constructive dialog with their Turkmen counterparts, took a balanced and state position. The first round took place in Ashgabat where both parties were comprised of representatives of the authorities that had to do with the problems of migration and employment. And quite recently it was agreed that this time the second round of talks would be held in Moscow. It seemed that there was every chance to settle all current problems without high statements and sword play in the press. However Mr. Kokoshin, to all appearances, prefers appeals through the mass media to negotiations. At least, it could be concluded after reading this interview.

First, distinguished Deputy contradicts himself. At the beginning he talked about positive trends in the attempts to solve arising problems. "The very fact of setting up the Russian-Turkmen Commission on citizenship by two Presidents and starting the talks cannot be regarded as a certain progress, Kokoshin confessed. - Some positive shifts have been noticed in the Turkmen position. In fact, a requirement to stamp Russian visa in the Turkmen passports of our citizens - dual citizenship holders - has been removed. They are issued multiple permit writings to exit a country within one year. The Protocol signed in Ashgabat stated that the rights and interests of the Russian citizens living in Turkmenistan would be fully observed".

Further on, however, the head of Duma committee tried to disown his mentioning of the "certain progress". In particular, while sharing his vision Kokoshin said that "the Turkmen side had been apparently seen as protracting the talks and trying to postpone discussion of difficult issues until autumn".

It was a strange formulation of question because the Russian side might also be seen as making the same "attempt" when its Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested holding the second round of talks this autumn in Moscow.

While fairly noting that "the problem concerns the lives of tens of thousands of people", the Deputy calls "the attempt of Ashgabat to confine to minor concessions" "unacceptable".

While it is hard to disagree with the first part of the assertion, the question as to why Ashgabat should have made concessions in the process of equal talks has to be answered by the interviewee.

Then Mr. Kokoshin expressed a concern at "the state of Russian schools in Turkmenistan, the rights of Russian speaking population to have public associations, newspapers, TV and radio". Here he clarified that "the point is about free broadcasting of the Russian TV and Radio programs from and dissemination of the Russian newspapers".

Unfortunately, the Deputy has limited to just this slogan statement. Perhaps, it is because every topic he underlined requires a separate discussion. To make things clear he would have had to explain, for instance, why Russia till now has paid so little attention to the issue of the Russian schools, Russian institutes branches and other high schools establishments opening in Turkmenistan. Or, to explain whether Russia is ready to arrange "free" (free of charge?) broadcast of the Turkmen TV programs in that part of the Russian territory where tens of thousands of ethnic Turkmen live. Or, may be the State Duma is ready to spare some money for the Turkmen newspapers delivery to the Turkmen living in Russia. If not, then why Russia demands from Ashgabat that the Moscow newspapers dissemination, TV and radio broadcast of the Russian channels should be free of charge in its sovereign territory?

Isn't it understandable that all these projects are discussed at separate talks nowadays, and the sides have to pay some price while showing a good will? And simply threatening with non-ratification of the Agreement on dual citizenship by the Duma will obviously be insufficient...

A thesis of the Russian Duma committee head that "the Turkmen side should pay for accommodation of re-settlers from Turkmenistan in Russia bearing in mind that thousands of Russians made a substantial contribution to the country development" is, to say the least, equally arguable. Let us see, Andrei Afanasyevich. Do you propose a new division of the CIS guided by the principal of who invested in what and built something somewhere in the Soviet period? In this case Turkmenistan could demand from Russia not only a pair of Baikal-Amur villages built by the Turkmen workers but a share in the Russian textile plants where Turkmen cotton was supplied for nothing. Or, it could have wished to acquire at concession terms part of the Russian pipeline network built at the expense of Turkmen gas and oil supply for export in the Soviet period...

In the end of the interview the Deputy "lays out" a controversial vision of the measures of economic pressure on Turkmenistan suggested by some of his colleagues. "Not people in power but population as a whole, including Russian speaking one, are much affected by economic sanctions", Kokoshin reasonably notes, "urging to exert such kind of pressure with great care". But immediately after having said that he could not stop threatening Ashgabat: "A political and diplomatic pressure on Ashgabat is necessary at this stage. If it does not work we have to think of economic sanctions as well".

It is not bad for anyone to have a think, even for Deputies that make so serious statements, touching upon an important field of two friendly states relations. And it is desirable that one, let alone those performing official duties, has to think about strengthening those relations and solving current problems, but not only about personal political ambitions.

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Charygeldi AMANOV

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