Turkmenistan. According to countryaah, the country’s gas export was a major political conflict issue during the year. An explosion in the pipeline halted deliveries to the Russian Federation in April, prompting Turkmenistan to accuse the Russian federation of causing the explosion with the intention of stripping gas imports. It was rejected by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. Turkmenistan lost huge sums when gas supplies to the Russian Federation were down, as the country was almost entirely dependent on the Russian market for its exports. Turkmenistan tried to widen gas exports, for example through the construction of a pipeline to China, which was inaugurated at the end of the year. They also hoped for the so-called Nabucco lead to the EU. But in May, when the EU signed an agreement with a number of countries on the Nabucco leadership, there were reports that the Russian Federation was pushing Turkmenistan not to join the settlement. The Turkmen President later explained that the country intended to join the plans of the leadership. In September, the presidents of Turkmenistan and the Russian Federation met to try to resolve the issue of interrupted gas supplies to the Russian Federation, but only in December did the two countries manage to agree on prices and resumed deliveries. At that time, export problems to the Russian Federation had contributed to the dismissal of the head of state Turkmengaz and the heads of two state oil companies.
In October, environmental activist Andrei Zatoka was sentenced in a closed trial to five years in prison accused of assault, which he himself was rigged by the authorities. Zatoka was not allowed to have a lawyer and he saw himself as a victim of political persecution by the regime. Human Rights Watch demanded that he be released. When press freedom in the countries of the world was ranked by state-sponsored US Freedom House during the year, Turkmenistan came in second place with Burma and with only North Korea lower on the list. Turkmenistan has no independent media. Many students were stopped during the year from studying abroad and some were banned from multi-year travel bans. Human rights groups urged the EU and the US to do more towards the oil-rich regime in the country when it came to human rights.
In July, a giant project was started to create an artificial lake of 2,000 square kilometers in the Karakum desert. The lake will be filled with drainage water from the country’s large cotton fields, and the regime hopes to make the desert bloom. Critics warned that the water would be so rich in fertilizers and pesticides that it would form a salt lake similar to the Dead Sea. Lack of water is a serious conflict issue in Central Asia, and Turkmenistan’s sea plans are one of the world’s largest building projects estimated to cost the equivalent of SEK 140 billion.