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Central Asia news

Russia - Turkmenistan: Vladimir Putin informed of the fate of Andrei Zatoka the prisoner

16.01.2007 18:20 msk

Vremya Novostei

Human Rights Russia

Moscow-based Vremya Novostei reports that President Vladimir Putin met with the Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights.

The conversation lasted more than three hours. The "Turkmen question" was raised closer to the end when journalists had already vacated the premises. Svyatoslav Zabelin, Council member who brought up the matter, met with the Vremya Novostei correspondent with his comments on how it was.

Those present discussed the lot of the Russians left in new sovereign countries by disintegration of the Soviet Union. Zabelin informed Putin that Andrei Zatoka, a citizen of the Russian Federation and Co-Chairman of the International Social-Ecological Union, had been arrested in Ashkhabad. When the Russians approached the Embassy in Ashkhabad for help in the matter, its response boiled down to this "We know of the situation but we need instructions from the Kremlin." According to Zabelin, Putin did not say a word to that but his facial expression indicated total bafflement (what command are they waiting for?).

"The Embassy of the Russian Federation is waiting for your command. Pamfilova even wrote you a letter - and I did too - asking for it," Zabelin said. "What was he imprisoned for?" Putin wanted to know. "For nothing... For environmental protection. Charges against him are a laugh," was the answer.

According to the Zabelin, the president looked upset and promised to have somebody look into it. Ella Pamfilova gave the president the petition for Zatoka signed by 280 (!) activists of human rights and ecological non-governmental organizations from Russia and CIS countries.

How Ashkhabad reacts to the Kremlin's "worries" (if any) is anybody's guess. The nature of the reaction, however, will probably indicate the readiness of Niyazov's successors to distantiate themselves from his despotic heritage.

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Arkady Dubnov

Vremya Novostei, January 16, 2007