The Death of Turkmenbashi

As the year draws to an end, so Leanan has quickly caught the news that is only now being picked up elsewhere that the ruler of Turkmenistan, Turkmenbashi has died of an apparent heart attack with the immediate heir being announced as
Deputy Prime Minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov as interim president -- in apparent violation of the country's constitution, which stipulates that the parliament speaker should take over until elections are held.
His nominal successor was the speaker Alezov, but, in the immediate consequence of the death, he has apparently been put under arrest (something that was prominent about 4 hours ago but which seems to have vanished from the Internet).

The reason for this little post is that Turkmenistan holds the fourth largest gas reserves around, and the future of these may now be in some doubt. We have written about some of the interplay between Turkmenistan, Russia and potential customers over the past year and it might be appropriate to repeat some of that information to remind you of the situation.

UPDATE: Thanks to Greko there is a Stratfor piece that gives more information on the current situation here .

And so the following is from a series of earlier posts beginning with last month.

"One wonders if the Gazprom plan is therefore to buy and sell gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan first, and run down their supply, while maintaining their own until later. The Turkmen already had large deposits, and have just discovered another very large field. It is interesting to note, however, who their projected partners are planning to be.

A huge natural gas field has been discovered in Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niyazov said.

A field containing an estimated 7 billion cubic meters has been struck in the southeastern town of Iolotan, Niyazov said in televised remarks Sunday.

"A mighty fountain (of gas) caught fire," Niyazov said. "It took us three days to put it out."

He said a Chinese energy company, which he did not further identify, had shown interest in developing the field with help from a company from the United Arab Emirates.

Perhaps Gazprom may not have it quite as easily their own way as they expect - although perhaps that is one of the things that the Russian PM will be talking about.
Turkmenistan is the second-biggest natural gas producer in the former Soviet Union after Russia. The country's proven commercial reserves amount to 2.8 trillion cubic meters. The Russian gas giant Gazprom controls the only transit route for Turkmen gas exports to other ex-Soviet republics and Europe.

Niyazov reiterated his intention to export natural gas to India, China and the United Arab Emirates through pipelines that are still under construction.

"Our goal is to lay pipelines to several countries," he said. "We have also pledged to supply 200 billion cubic meters to the world market."

In April, Turkmenistan concluded an agreement to build a gas pipeline to China. Beginning in 2007, it will also export 14 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Iran.

As the Russian Institute of Energy Policy reports, however, China is concerned about the security of the energy supply. (And watching what is going on in Georgia who can blame them?)"

Going on to look at other posts that have been made - there are a couple more of interest, The situation is something over which Jerome and I have slightly disagreed. As I noted back then Jerome is much more qualified to comment on this than I, given his knowledge of the pipeline situation . At the time I said
"And this sort of strengthens my case that despite Gazprom's power, China has a strong interest in Turkmenistan. And in regard to the Turkmenistan pipeline, folks are still interested in investing

According to a press release issued on Friday, he said that the government was actively pursuing trans-border gas pipeline projects of Iran, Turkmenistan and Qatar as well as the import of LNG fuel.
However the machinations of Gazprom, in regard to the access of Turkmen gas to the west continue. A pipeline known as the Blue Stream has been built between Russia and Turkey, and is currently carrying less gas, due to lower demand, than it was designed for. As a result it will likely be extended to Italy (where, you may remember, there were shortages earlier this year).
If the agreements are successfully implemented, Gazprom will be able to supply Russian gas directly to Italy, as well as to Spain, Greece and even Israel, while Turkey will acquire the importance of a transit center in the system of energy resources flow in Eurasia.

The Blue Stream has actually reduced to naught the plans for building the Transcaspian pipeline and organizing the export of Turkmenian gas by passing Russia. As a result, in the first place, Russia has got protected itself from a strong competitor on the European market and, in the second, it acquired the opportunity to buy large amounts of Turkmenian gas at an acceptable price. Already in effect is a contract signed by Gazexport and Turkmenneftegaz under which the deliveries of gas from Turkmenistan to Russia are to reach 70-80 billion m3 a year.

And as Jerome pointed out the pipeline also allowed Gazprom to circumvent Ukraine in supplying gas to its Southern regions.

The point, I believe, wherein he and I differ, relates to the influence of the Chinese. Since, as I noted earlier, they are already in Turkmenistan, and do have a need for the gas, they are motivated toward the pipeline. And as you may have noticed from this post and the last, it would appear that the Turkmen have yet to get a decent deal from Gazprom, which would motivate them also to find a better, and more lucrative customer. So I think, in this case, I will stick with my original prediction that the pipeline to China will go forward."

Tom Nichols, writing on the Robert Amsterdam website was commenting about the pipelines in the are the other day, noting that

For now, there is only one realistic source of gas for Nabucco: the South Caucuses Pipeline (SCP). Due to start up around the end of the year, the 690 km pipeline will export gas from Azerbaijan, through Georgia to the Turkish border - along the same corridor as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. It will be supplied largely from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field, in the Caspian Sea. Flows are expected to be in the region of 7bn cm/y initially, rising to around 16bn cm/y after 2012, says BP, the operator of Shah Deniz. . . . . . . The infrastructure, commercial agreements and political support for flows from other sources, however, remain to be established. Theoretically, says Ruttenstorfer, they include all the countries around Turkey that have sufficient gas to export - Russia, through the under-utilised Blue Stream pipeline, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Syria and Iraq. But there is no direct infrastructure to tie gas from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan into Nabucco and there are doubts about how much spare gas Turkmenistan has. There is also no infrastructure to bring gas from Iran, Syria or Iraq to Nabucco and political circumstances are unfavourable in all three cases.

Any way, if you will forgive me, I am going to conclude this with a repeat of a more comprehensive post I made last April.

The first thing to do is to find the country, and for those who aren't sure where it is, it lies North of Iran on the Eastern side of the Caspian Sea.

It is ranked as having either the fourth or fifth largest reserves of natural gas, with reserves of 2 tcm (trillion cubic meters) (the CIA), 5.5 tcm the Jamestown Foundation, or 8.1 - 8.7 tcm Library of Congress. It exports around 38.6 bcm per year, and uses around 15.5 bcm itself (CIA), for a total production of around 55 bcm.

Historically the natural gas has been sold to Russia, and the Ukraine, but very much under the thumb of the Russian purchasers. As the EIA notes

Prior to 1997, the only option for exporting Caspian region natural gas was via the Russian natural gas pipeline system. Although over 2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of Caspian Sea region natural gas was piped via the Central Asia Center gas pipeline in 1990, exports fell to 0.3 Tcf in 1997 when Russia's Gazprom, which is a competitor with Turkmen natural gas and owns the Russian pipelines through which Turkmenistan exports, denied Turkmenistan access to the system over a payment dispute.

(Source EAI)

(For those like me who have problems with conversions, 1 Tcf is roughly 30 bcm). The story from the Research Divn of the Library of Congress is slightly different.

In 1992 gas production accounted for about 60 percent of GDP. As a result of a dispute with Ukraine over payments for gas deliveries, in 1992 gas production fell by 20 billion cubic meters to around 60 billion cubic meters. In the first eight months of 1994, transportation restrictions forced Turkmenistan to cut gas production to 26.6 billion cubic meters, only 57 percent of the production for the same period in 1993. An additional factor in this reduction was the failure of CIS partners, to whom Russia distributes Turkmenistan's gas, to pay their bills.

With limited ways of selling its gas Turkmenistan was stuck with selling it through Russia, with 918 bcf staying in Russia while 117 bcf went on to Ukraine during 2000. Exports continued to rise by about 25% a year. The UNECE continues the story.

In a bid to secure a market for its natural gas, on May 14, 2001, Turkmenistan agreed with Ukraine on a major natural gas export deal. Under terms of the deal, Turkmenistan will provide Ukraine with 8.83 Tcf of natural gas between 2002 and 2006. Turkmenistan will sell Ukraine 1.41 Tcf of natural gas in 2002 and 1.77 Tcf in 2003, with remaining deliveries to be agreed later. Turkmen officials signed the deal on the condition that Ukraine makes timely payments for supplies. Ukrainian officials agreed to pay for the Turkmen natural gas 60% in cash, with the remainder paid for through participation in 20 construction and industrial projects in Turkmenistan worth a total of $412 million.

Unfortunately disagreements over payments have continued. First in the winter of 2004

In December 2004, Turkmenistan halted gas supplies to Russia and reportedly demanded $60 per 1,000 cubic meters (35,300 cubic feet). Turkmenistan presumably expected that the perceived inability of Gazprom to meet its export and domestic commitments without Turkmen gas volumes would force the Russian giant to offer better terms. However, Turkmenistan failed to force Russia to pay more for Turkmen gas, as Gazprom passed through the 2005 winter season of peak demand for natural gas without Turkmen supplies. Subsequently, in April 2005 Russia and Turkmenistan agreed that Gazprom would make all payments in cash instead of the earlier barter arrangements, yet the price remained the same: $44 per 1,000 cubic meters.

The situation deteriorated further with the clash between Ukraine and Russia gaining the attention, among others of The Energy Bulletin as the debate over price escalated. Unfortunately for Turkmenistan, the solution allowed Russia to sell at world price, while using the cheaper Turkmen gas to keep the average price at $95 per 1,000 cu.m.. That debate is not over. The price itself was not actually fixed
The next day, on Feb. 2, RosUkrEnergo agreed to stipulate in a contract that it will supply gas to Ukraine at $95 per 1,000 cubic meters during the next five years. However, RosUkrEnergo reserved the right to boost the prices if Turkmenistan, the main gas source for the company, moves to hike the prices.

The issue is sensitive for Ukraine, whose chemical and steel companies would become unprofitable if gas prices exceed $95, analysts said.

And so the debate continues. Novosti had two stories on this in the past two weeks.
Under a bilateral treaty, Turkmenistan is to ship 40 billion cubic meters of gas at $50 per 1000 cu m in the first half of the year and at $60 per 1000 cu m in the second. Turkmenistan's foreign ministry earlier said that Ukraine was delaying payment for natural gas shipments and threatened to cut off supplies unless the Ukrainian side cleared the outstanding debt. If that were to happen, it would be the second time a supplier had turned off the taps to Ukraine, as Russian energy giant Gazprom cut supplies on January 1 amid a bitter dispute over prices for natural gas supplies. . . . . . According to Turkmenistan, Ukraine's debt stands at $158.9 million and the country's foreign ministry said a failure to settle the debt could place energy cooperation in doubt.
This was followed by
Ukraine's prime minister said Wednesday his country's debt to Turkmenistan for natural-gas supplies stood at $68 million, and that it would be paid off by supplies of industrial goods.

"As of this moment, Ukraine's debt to Turkmenistan stands at $68 million," Yuriy Yekhanurov told a Cabinet session, adding that Kiev had already ironed out all its problems concerning natural gas supply obligations with Ashgabat.

Turkmenistan says Ukraine's debt currently stands at $158.9 million, and President Saparmurat Niyazov has urged Ukraine to pay up.

Unfortunately the attitude of the Ukrainians to such debt is not reassuring to Turkmen
(On) or the issue of 7,8 billions of cubic meters of Russian natural gas, that had allegedly disappeared while being transferred through the Ukrainian territory.

That of course is incorrect. However, the specifics of the gas transit system does not allow refuting this fact easily. Should Ukrainians have dealt with the issue in a more professional manner, the myth would be damaging to Gazprom itself.

First of all, if the gas was stolen -- that should have happened before 2005, when other people were governing Ukraine. And let us remind the reader, that Gazprom was supporting these people.

Therefore, the question shall be posed to the great friends of Russia like Kuchma, Yanukhovich and Boiko (former chief of Naftohaz). And there are all reasons to suspect, that like any other transaction in the sphere of fuel and energy the `steeling' of the Russian gas resulted into the personal benefit of the top Russian and Ukrainian government officials.

It is no wonder that Turkmenistan is becoming frustrated with customers to the North and West, and so it is again trying a harder line. From Radio Free Europe

That aim was demonstrated again on 10 February, when Niyazov announced on national television that Turkmenistan intends this autumn to raise the export price of its natural gas from $65 to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters. This gambit comes at a time when Turkmen gas is increasingly tied into a complex international equation, as a deal recently brokered between Ukraine and Russia depends on cheap Turkmen gas. Under the deal, Ukraine would pay an average price of $95 per 1,000 cubic meters in 2006.

Such a price hike would pinch Ukraine's economy painfully. Ukraine is slated to import 17 billion cubic meters of Russian gas and 39 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas in 2006, according to the news website A 53 percent increase in the price of Turkmen gas would raise the average price Ukraine pays for its total imports from Russia and Turkmenistan by 20-25 percent, from $95 to $114-119 per 1,000 cubic meters. Other estimates run higher. An unidentified source in Gazprom, the state-run Russian company that handles gas exports, told the Russian business newspaper "Vedomosti" that if Turkmenistan charges $100, Ukraine would have to pay $130 for imports.

However when the Turkmen tried this before Russia called their bluff, so this time they have a different answer. Two new pipelines are in the works.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan Natural Gas Pipeline Project (the Project) is a gas pipeline of about 1,600 kilometers that will transport up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from the Dauletabad fields in South East Turkmenistan to consumers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and possibly India. The final cost of the Project is estimated at between $2.0 to $2.5 billion. The Project will take about three years to be implemented after all key decisions are taken by the cooperating countries.
Construction is supposed to start this summer, and it will carry 20 bcm per year. And for the other, there are the Chinese
Since the mid-1990s, experts from the China Petroleum Engineering Construction Corporation have been reviving oil wells in western Turkmenistan with a total output of 2.3 million tons a year. Meanwhile, the China Petrochemical Corporation has been upgrading gas wells in the Shatlyk field with a total annual capacity of 3 billion cubic meters. . . . . . During talks between Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao in Astana in early July 2005, Nazarbayev said that constructing a Turkmenistan-China pipeline through Kazakh territory would be beneficial for all three countries.
. The agreement for the pipeline is now in place
Chinese President Hu Jintao signed agreements Monday with the visiting president of Turkmenistan for the Central Asian nation to sell China natural gas to fuel its energy-hungry economy and to build a pipeline to deliver it.
Thus the gas that Ukraine is relying on to keep it out of trouble is going to start heading East instead of North, and, given past practice, that can only bode badly for the reliability of supply to such places as Italy and the United Kingdom.

In the meanwhile, Gazprom continues its heavy hand, this time in a play to control the gas flow from Iran through Armenia.

Armenia will pay $110 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, or about half the European average, but twice what the country pays now, Gazprom, the Russian monopoly, said in a statement.

Gazprom, in turn, will buy a 24-mile section of pipe connecting Armenia to Iran -- the tiny and energy-poor country's only plausible alternative to Russian energy supplies. Also under the agreement Gazprom, through a joint venture, was granted a concession to build a second larger pipeline along this route.

There is indeed a new Great Game afoot, it's just that, at present, the cast is different this time around. Pity there isn't a Buchan, or a Kipling to keep us up to date in a more dramatic fashion.

Thanks to Jack Greene for direction to a couple of Radio Free Europe features. The first expands on Gazprom's supply problems, and it's anticipated answer.

Domestic shipments at regulated, reduced prices totaled 258 bcm in 2004 and 325 bcm in 2005, when they generated losses of nearly $1 billion, Prime-TASS reported on 29 November. Exports to the West, which account for the bulk of Gazprom's profits, are planned at 151 bcm in 2006 and set to rise to 163 bcm by 2008, Prime-TASS reported on 23 November. . . . . . . Gazprom plans to buy 9 bcm from Uzbekistan and 30 bcm from Turkmenistan in 2006, reported on 23 January. Purchases from Turkmenistan are slated to go to 70-80 bcm a year by 2007-08, Prime-TASS reported on 30 November. With these boosts looming on the horizon, Gazprom hopes to expand the capacity of the Central Asia-Center pipeline, which links Turkmenistan and Russia through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, from current levels of 42 bcm/year to 55 bcm/year, and is considering another project linking Central Asia and Russia with throughput capacity of 30 bcm/year, Prime-TASS reported.
while the second suggests that Gazprom has reached a peak production at 550 bcm.

Hope this helps!

Requiescat In Pace

I am glad Niyazov is gone. Turkmenia became a much sadder, poorer and more oppressed place under his rule. It is really a beautiful country (especially the mountains in the south) with genuine, friendly people who deserve a much better government than that of Niyazov.

As far as NG supplies are concerned, Gazprom is probably safe for now. By the time the new pipeline to China is completed, Shtokman will likely come on line to offset the decline in existing Gazprom fields. Turkmenia does not have anything other than its NG to offer to the world, and it heavily depends on natural gas export revenues for importing food, pharmaceuticals, and manufactured goods, so whoever wins the power struggle in Ashgabad will keep NG flowing.

In the long run, Turkmenneftegaz will probably want to diversify away from the Russia/Ukraine market to get a better price for its exports. Not sure if Russia can do anything about that, unless they manage to install a government loyal to Moscow. My guess is there are lengthy meetings being held in Kremlin and Gazprom HQ right now to sort out the situation.

Hello Petersburger,

Your quote:  "My guess is there are lengthy meetings being held in Kremlin and Gazprom HQ right now to sort out the situation."

If this is true, and I do not doubt it: I would also say there are lengthy meetings being held in Euro-capitals, China, US, Iran, etc.  Virtually everyone, at this late stage before the Peak, has a vital interest in this huge natgas supply and the Turkmenistan politics. Unfortunately, I fear it could get pretty ugly as the 'Great Game' shifts pieces to move towards depletion checkmate.

I remember Turkmenbashi had heart problems [No wonder after reading this keypost!]  Putin's Silovicki, along with all the other operating mafias, plus all the contending governments would be enough to give anyone a heart attack.

Nonetheless,  I recommend tests for Polonium-210 and other exotica.  Billion$$$$ in pipeline flows & direction could depend on the outcome.  Peakoil is incredibly more interesting than any Tom Clancy novel!  I sincerely hope Turkmenistan politics can be smoothly resolved, but the arrest of one leader already is a very bad sign, IMO.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

BTW, great and detailed post on such short notice, HO!  Your fingers must have been flying across the keyboard to bang this out so quickly.  I am going to REDDIT now!
I recommend tests for Polonium-210

I just said the same thing to my wife!  Could it be there will be wars abroad without the US starting problems...(Hmmmm).

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Cheers and Happy Holidays from The Oil Drum!


What happened to the Reserves Tutorial?
I could of sworn it was here on TOD a few hours ago and now it is erased from history. How can this happen?

You can see it in the right margin at TOD Europe on Dec 14th. The link is:
Hello Stepback,

My guess is that it was just moved back to TOD/EUR because of the upcoming software change this weekend.

Thanks to both of you.
I thought I was losing my mind.
Probably am anyway. :-)

For TOD samplers who missed it, Rembrant's Primer on Reserve Growth is worth a read through. The word "Reserves" will never be the same for you again. Rembrant --great job, a masterpiece.

You wrote: "A very large field...containing an estimated 7 billion cubic meters has been struck".

That's not a very large field, not for a country with proven commercial reserves amounting to 2.8 trillion cubic meters, which exports around 36 bcf/year.

If you click on this google page, you will find, at the bottom, a stratfor's article with the title:

Turkmenistan: The Battle to Follow Turkmenbashi's Death

It's interesting, I think.

Hello Greko,

Yes, the Stratfor article is very interesting:
This means that all eyes should be on Moscow and Tehran for the next few months. For the past two years, the geopolitical strategies of these two countries -- to tie down the Americans -- have been relatively in sync. But now there is a prize that both desperately want, and one that cannot be easily shared. With former Russian spies being poisoned in London and militants raging in Iraq, the world should know full well that these powers do not play softly when the stakes are high.

If Iran invaded this country and shutoff the pipelines running North, it would put the kibosh to Russia's European export power, and simultaneously strengthen Iran's ability to twist the arms of any Europeans who support Iranian nuclear sanctions.  For a very small military outlay, Iran can suddenly become a true energy lynchpin; a formidable natgas superpower.  I think Iran would jump at this chance, then seek to broker this natgas to China and other Asian countries.  The Iranians would only have to hold this ground for a very short time as a proxy force until the Chinese Army marched in overland thru Dushanbe, Tajikistan.  Will we see American and NATO forces coming to Russia's side to prevent the Iran-China hookup?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Or perhaps Russia threatens Iran with full sanctions if Iran messes around in Turkmenistan.
With the US and Israel just itching for an excuse to attack Iran, I find it hard picturing the Iranians being stupid enough to get on the bad side of Russia at this critical time by making a play for Turkmenistan gas.  Russia is the only powerful country in the area that is anywhere close to be an ally of Iran.
Along with Bob, I doubt that Iran would play a heavy and transparent game--i.e., a direct invasion.  Too many would jump at the chance to punish Iran.  Even if Iran could grab Turkmenistan, all hell would break lose at home: Expect both the West and others to trumpet Iran's attempt at hegemony in the Middle East and its nuclear ambitions.  Bombing Iran would occur in short order--easy and painful.

On the other hand, better to control by proxy this valuable piece of real estate.  In short, a few more assassinations, control of the next ruling madman--you all know the drill.

I was delivering some Xmas presents last night (my wife's handmade soap, actually) and watched TV news with her cousins. No mention of Turkenbashi, no mention of carbon monoxide deaths, Iraq, etc. Only two things were important on CBS last night: Trump vs O'Donnell and Katie Couric endlessly interviewing the tearful second wife of that guy who died on Mt Hood and left four orphans.
It's not just catering to popular bad taste.
These people probably have contractual obligations to purvey such rubbish.
The Katie Couric interview was a definite jump the shark moment. After commercials, they have < 20 minutes at most for national news--and that interview took up more than half. I'll bet the other networks are just kicking themselves.
4 fishermen also are presumed dead off the Oregon coast.  Buried in the middle of the paper - of course!

Last election my son brought up the abortion issue and repub's vrs. demo's.  I quickly interjected that abortion will only affect those who need one and that it is preventable so it isn't a major issue IMHO.  I also pointed out that energy will affect the everything he does and is by far the only issue to be concerned with other than girls, grades and fishing.

Hello TODers,

This article from the Russian newsource, KOMMERSANT suggests that the Turkmenistan-Russian natgas contracts may be voided depending upon who takes power next in Turkmenistan:
Gas Agreements Die with Turkmenbashi

The death of President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov has put both Russia and the West in an inconvenient situation. His death has started a fierce battle for power in the country and, more importantly, a new phase in the battle among Russia, China, the European Union and other interested parties for Turkmen gas. Turkmenbashi's death also places agreement reached between Gazprom and Ashgabat in jeopardy.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

Turkmenistan is heating up fast.  Exiled Turkmen opposition weigh return:
MOSCOW -- The death of Turkmenistan's autocratic president set in motion a series of power struggles, as exiled opposition leaders Friday clamored to return and world powers competed for influence over the Central Asian country and its vast energy resources.

With no obvious heir to President Saparmurat Niyazov, who died of heart failure Thursday, commentators said would-be successors were maneuvering behind the scenes.

They also said Niyazov's sudden death could lead to a contest between Russia and the West over the former Soviet republic's enormous natural gas and petroleum reserves, with the Kremlin seeking to influence who would become president.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a condolence message that "strengthening our partnership is in the true interests of the peoples of Russia and Turkmenistan." And President Bush said the U.S. hopes "to expand our relations with Turkmenistan."

Arkady Dubnov, a Central Asia expert with the Russian newspaper Vremya Novostei, said a fierce internal power struggle was under way.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

Turkmen exiles seek Deutsche probe:
Deutsche Bank, the German bank, was on Friday under pressure over claims it was holding billions of dollars in accounts formerly controlled by Saparmurat Niyazov, the autocratic president of Turkmenistan who died suddenly on Thursday.

Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt declined to comment yesterday.

Alexander Zhadan, Niyazov's private secretary, controlled his financial affairs. Mr Zhadan has not been seen since the the day before Niyazov died, according to unconfirmed reports.

Andrei Grozin, an expert on central Asia in Moscow's Institute of the CIS, said it was "naive" to think European banks would return the funds to Turkmenistan. He added that Russian officials set to attend Niyazov's funeral, including Mikhail Fradkov, the prime minister, and Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, the gas monopoly, were expected to remain for talks about gas supplies and revenues.

Don't you just love all the twists and turns of a great mystery?

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

From the Chicago Tribune, The Coming Fight for Oil:
The 19th Century saw the British Empire and czarist Russia jockey for control of Central Asia in a Great Game of global strategy. Today the game is gathering again, this time between China and the U.S., as China makes its biggest push for influence in this oil-soaked region since the days of the Silk Road.

No nation is more in play than Kazakhstan, where China's new oil pipeline snakes for 620 miles and may one day reach the shores of the Caspian Sea.

"The U.S. is a strategic partner," Energy Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov said in an interview, carefully picking his words. "China is also a strategic partner. China has a great future here."

Conversely, in an age of indisputably diminishing resources, the two sides may be edging closer to confrontation.

"You have two powers competing over the same sandbox," said Gal Luft, a China expert with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security in Washington. "As a country of China's size grows, there will be a moment when the moment of reckoning comes."

Some in Washington believe that China's thrust into Kazakhstan threatens America's foothold.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

This just in from The Gulf Times from Doha, Qatar:
Europe's gas security plunges into crisis after `Turkmenbashi' death
Published: Sunday, 24 December, 2006, 08:38 AM Doha Time

MOSCOW: The death of Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov on Thursday has plunged Europe's energy security into doubt, with the prospect of a struggle for power raising the spectre of a new gas crisis.

"I expect there will be a massive fight for power now in Turkmenistan and it's likely to take place between pro-US and pro-Russian forces," said a Russian gas industry source, who declined to be named.
"Gas will become the main coin of exchange and the key asset to get hold of. There shouldn't be any short-term problems with supplies to Russia and onward but in the mid-term it could become a nightmare.

Michael Cotter, US ambassador to Ashgabat from 1995 to 1998, said there was a danger that any collective leadership following Turkmenbashi would be unstable, but Turkmenbashi's circle was likely to work to keep the gas flowing.
"Most of the people around him are going to be survivors and they understand what brings prosperity," he told Reuters by phone.
"I think the gas will continue to flow, at least in the interim period, how ever long that might be, six months or longer. I can't see the oil or gas being disrupted. Gazprom wouldn't let that happen." - Reuters
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az  Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hello TODers,

Please consider [or not] this article:

Was the Bush administration involved in the death of Turkmenistan’s President, Saparmurat Niyazov?

After all, Niyazov met all the criteria for Bush’s policy of “regime change”. He controlled massive natural gas reserves and he refused to take orders directly from Washington. Typically, these are the only factors that are weighed when considering whether a change of leadership is in order.

No wonder the Bush administration is paving the way for intervention.

So, now the president is dead, his successor is under indictment and there are reports that a number of prominant ex-patriots will soon be returning to Turkmenistan to take part in the political “free-for-all”.

Haven’t we seen this performance before?

If this sounds like a script written in Washington, it’s probably because it was. Most of Bush’s stooges in Iraq were assembled outside of the country before the 2003 invasion and still have the administration’s unfailing support. The upcoming circus in Turkmenistan will probably be more of the same.

The media, of course, has played its traditional role of championing Washington’s interventions by demanding “free elections”; another comical part of the Bush-kabuki which never seems to change. Turkmenistan has no history of free elections, but the western press can be expected to follow the directives of their political overlords who will doubtless insist that Turkmenistan participate in Bush’s “Global Democratic Revolution”. (excluding democratically-elected Hamas, of course)

The power struggle is bound to be ferocious and Washington will be right in the “thick of it”. At this juncture, Bush has no choice but to pull out the stops and do everything in his power to establish an American client in Turkmenistan. The geopolitical stakes are too high to ignore. The country is perfectly situated between Russia and Iran on the Caspian Sea, the epicenter of the world’s remaining resources. In fact, the Pentagon’s own maps show Turkmenistan at the very center of CENTCOM’s global resource war; a pivotal location for military installations and pipeline corridors. It provides ready-access to an estimated 2 trillion in oil reserves in the Caspian Sea, as well as the massive natural gas supplies. At the same time, a change of leadership could block arch-rival Gazprom from extending its dominance throughout the region by handing over control to western energy corporations.

As the weeks and months go by, we can expect to see the usual trappings of US involvement; the CIA-funded public demonstrations, the American-friendly "democracy promoting" coverage in the media, and the comical parade of ex-patriots who matriculated in US right-wing think tanks. The whole charade is being cobbled together as part of the failed strategy to control the world’s remaining resources.

The faces may vary, but the routine is always the same.
Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?