In Karakum unbearably hot. The Turkmen leader in the fever shuffles the cards of the government deck, simultaneously showing accounts to partners from France, Turkey, Ukraine. During the current summer season, Saparmurat Niyazov’s sole “head of all Turkmen” has almost completely replaced the top of the strategic sector of the economy - the fuel and energy sector. Virtually all negotiations on a transnational project to pump Turkmen gas to Pakistan, the “Production Sharing Agreement on the Turkmen Sector of the Caspian Sea”, and a long-term gas deal with Ukraine have been frozen. In all oil and gas structures the prosecutor’s audit lasts for hours. In Ashgabad offices of alien oil companies, a change in the rules of the game and a total personnel sweep created panic. Some are willing to sell their stake in Turkmen projects to interested parties. Turkmenbashi is on the alert: he has already come out categorically against the takeover by Russian LUKOIL of a somewhat successful company from the United Arab Emirates - Dragon Oil, which is diligently leading oil development in the Turkmen part of the Caspian Sea.
The process has begun
"Gambling" began from the moment when the "heavyweight" of energy affairs, Deputy Prime Minister Elly Gurbanmuradov, went into jail. According to the scheme worked out over the years, it was he who helped foreigners pass through the doors of the presidential palace. About a month ago, at a closed hearing, he and his wife were sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison. The General Prosecutor’s Office of Turkmenistan, with its “crowning approval”, incriminated Gurbanmuradov in an attempt to destabilize the situation in the country through an artificial shortage of gasoline. The Ministry of National Security attributed to him the illegal sale of crude oil with the direct participation of the Austrian company Mitro International Ltd, one of the six companies that came to the country to Turkmenbashi. Under the double scenario, including accusations of lobbying Ukraine’s interests, in particular with regard to clearing payments received at inflated prices in exchange for Turkmen gas, the head of the state corporation Turkmenneftegaz Ilyas Charyyev was imprisoned. In those moments when his fate was being decided, Kiev made concessions to official Ashgabat, who insistently demanded that the calculations completely abandon barter.
A dozen high-ranking officials have been dismissed, including the chairman of the state corporation of Turkmengeology, Oraz Atageldyev, who has opened the Turkmen "Shah-Deniz" account. Just recently, the president’s favorite, Saparmamet Veliyev, who was at the helm of the state-owned production concern Turkmenneft for the last eight years, was declared the “enemy of the people”. They took away all titles and regalia from the gray-haired Hero of Turkmenistan, confiscated all property, including livestock, and put them in jail. Under each decree personally signed by the president. The investigation carried out the work promptly, it took just a couple of weeks to find out that Veliyev, like the disgraced deputy prime minister, launched his hand into the presidential feeder and profited $ 80 million. The case was transferred to the Supreme Kaziet (Court). Listening to the investigation reports, Niyazov angered one fact: he who took a bribe, noticed in systematic postscripts and even received a salary from a foreign partner, had his own point of sale - a large market and not anywhere, but in the regional center of Balkanabat, headquarters of Turkmenneft. In addition to all the attributes of luxury life, Veliyev had eight safes at his disposal, in which he preferred to keep the tribute collected from foreigners. “At one time, his assistant collected $ 2.5 million in cash,” the Turkmen head was amazed when he decided to take some preventive measures.
Thus, the Competent Authority on Hydrocarbon Resources under the President, which was established by Niyazov almost ten years ago, was disbanded during the week. The Law “On Hydrocarbon Resources” has undergone changes, according to which contracts and agreements on oil operations with foreign companies are authorized to be signed exclusively by the Minister of Oil and Gas Industry and Mineral Resources of Turkmenistan on the basis of the decision of Prime Minister Niyazov. The ranks of the leaders of state-owned corporations are significantly underestimated - to “ministers without portfolios”; now they are subordinated to the oil and gas minister as deputies and have no right to sign anything without his knowledge.
In the meantime, Ashgabad, as is known, was previously a step away from signing the “Production Sharing Agreement” with the ZarIet consortium, the founders of which were Zarubezhneft, Rosneft and ITERA. These negotiations lasted about two years and were difficult, affected by the proximity of the contract territories with the Iranian part of the Caspian Sea. Consultations were held at Turkmenbashi with some Western and Arab companies. With new realities, a new countdown begins. Especially if we take into account that the state owning the world's natural gas reserves, large oil resources still have political risks, the "opacity" of the economic model and, of course, the scandalous chronicle of relations with the "sharks of imperialism." At one time, Exxon Mobil, PSG and, in fact, Shell, had already left this market, there was litigation with the Argentinean Bridas, again not in favor of the Turkmen authorities and their projects.
What caused such a comprehensive disappointment of Turkmenbashi from its closest circle that it became a detonator? One way or another, this coincided with the change of leadership in Ukraine and the departure of Leonid Kuchma from the political arena, which the Turkmen ruler so liked to meet near the Caspian coast, build ambitious plans and feel more confident in the format of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the Russian media, the mood was aggravated: it turned out that the heroes of the Orange Revolution came to power largely due to Turkmen gas, in particular, Ukrainian “fat cats” who received super-profits because of Kiev’s barter prices in the barter part were not indifferent to “oranges”.