Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to Turkmenistan took place almost in the complete absence of media coverage of this event. The stinginess of the leaked information may reflect either the fact that Moscow still does not have a clear position towards the Turkmen authorities, or is ready to offer something cardinal to break the deadlock, but this cardinal is only consistent with the new Turkmen government.
In fact, local and foreign observers expected quite a lot from Lavrov's visit, because, in fact, this is the first working contact of the Russian authorities with the new leadership of Turkmenistan. References to the “fruitfulness” of the previous two visits of the Russian prime minister are untenable, because they had a purely formal subtext — to the funeral of Niyazov and the inauguration of Berdymukhammedov. And in the funeral and festive atmosphere it is simply unrealistic to discuss something serious, with access to specific agreements and signing specific documents. In this regard, the visit of Lavrov could be a breakthrough in interstate relations. And, maybe, he did, only the rest of the public were not informed about anything. Of course, regular phrases were heard in front of several journalists, but on Turkmen television, visits to the “holy” places of the former president were shown, and the Pushkin school became a pennant of Turkmen-Russian friendship. But everyone was waiting for not only this.
The caution of the Russian authorities is quite simple to understand. Gas intrigues are now in the next phase of aggravation and losing such a gas-rich partner as Turkmenistan means putting a bold question mark in ambitions for the title of guarantor of Europe’s energy security. On the other hand, in Russia itself, on the eve of elections to the Duma and presidential elections, the government and its opponents are seriously playing the national-patriotic card. And to refuse the Latvian sprats in protest at the violation of the rights of the Russian-speaking population there and to refuse the Turkmen gas in protest at the same thing, even in the square - this, you see, is two big differences. Both problems have long since passed into a latent state, but postponing them to a longer box is fraught with very many consequences, and for Putin personally also carries image costs, given the history of relations between Russia and Turkmenistan when he was president.
But back to the visit of Lavrov. Formally, the work of the Turkmen-Russian commissions was reanimated. One of them was created to address a very topical issue. Moreover, its relevance has not lost its degree since the collapse of the USSR and the beginning of building a state in Turkmenistan, the ideology of which was militant nationalism, with all the consequences for the non-Turkmen population. This was especially painful for the Russian-speaking citizens of Turkmenistan, who, however, as in the other republics of the former USSR, became the most vulnerable category. In the early 90s, Niyazov acted logically, creating and offering Russia a very pragmatic contractual base, according to which everyone from among Russian speakers could get the so-called “dual” citizenship, migrant status and on all of this “voluntarily” go to the Russian open spaces. Only, in Russia itself, no one expected these immigrants, and in the early 90s they did not even hear about state support programs in this category. And those who left, faced with all the delights of building wild capitalism, without any real chance of a normal life in the old-new homeland. Many have decided to stay in Turkmenistan for this and many other reasons.
Actually, this is the category of Russian citizens whose humanitarian issues should have been of concern to the Russian authorities, no less, but more than the same category in the Baltic States, for European-style discrimination cannot be compared with discrimination in the Asian satrapia. A humanitarian problem has accumulated. To begin with, the status of these citizens has not yet been determined. I will explain. After the "attempt" on Niyazov in 2002, in 2003, the Niyazov-Putin deal took place, which was called the "gas-people". And it was a "package" agreement. Turkmenistan sold to Russian Gazprom, read to Russia, all its gas for 25 years. And Russia gave consent to the termination of the 1992 agreement on dual citizenship with Turkmenistan. And, no matter how later the Russian authorities tried to play back, the loss of face was so serious, and the public outrage in Russia was so heavy that all the “concerns” about the rights of compatriots in the same Baltic region seemed simply absurd. The Duma categorically refused to ratify this agreement, and Putin had to apologize for the words abandoned at the previous press conference when he said about his compatriots remaining in the Near Abroad: "Whoever wanted, he left." For this year, he was told that it was not so that not everyone who wanted - left, it turns out, many did not want to leave those countries where they were born and raised. And they explained to Putin that this was no reason to deprive them of their Russian citizenship, which, in fact, was done as part of the “package” of “gas-people”.
Meanwhile, the living space for the holders of Russian citizenship and Russian-speakers, everything in Turkmenistan has already become. Niyazov began to crawl over them in full. With a thin oriental sophistication, which was covered with a thick layer of soviet cynicism. And the first thing he did was quickly carry out all the necessary procedures for the revocation of Russian citizenship. The Majlis ratified the agreement on the termination of the “dual” citizenship without hesitation, a decree was issued immediately ordering to choose one of the two within a month. Thousands of people sold their apartments for a pittance, someone just threw in despair to sell it at least for some money, many left their property, someone abandoned their business, almost all - the graves of their loved ones, because they realized that get totally dependent on the idiotic whims of the racist who has unleashed a lot. Speaking of racism. In 2005, the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination actually acknowledged manifestations of racism in Turkmenistan, held at the state level. But it happened already after the fact.
But back to humanitarian issues. Russian citizens have become just hostages in Niyazov’s speculative game with the Russian authorities. Having reduced their living space to a minimum, he then threw some kind of handwriting in the form of opening a Turkmen-Russian school with training in a Russian program, then closed a subscription to all print media from Russia and stopped broadcasting Russian television as soon as some Russian gas official stepped on his tail. As soon as the Turkmen authorities widely announced the commissioning of modern equipment that allows broadcasting on all available radio bands, they immediately shut down the only Russian radio station Mayak, inventing a completely wild story about outdated equipment. It cost the Russian TV to talk about drug trafficking through Turkmenistan, as the theater building was immediately demolished. Pushkin. And only the voice of the Russian public to Putin made Niyazov think again and give the chop on the outskirts of Ashgabat for the troupe of the theater.
Anyway, the question of "humanitarian cooperation" received a mutual "good" and the humanitarian commission is about to begin work. And the first key question is about “dual” citizenship. To disavow bilateral agreements and previous decisions of the Turkmen authorities to terminate the “dual citizenship” is a serious act that requires not only wiping pants on negotiation chairs, but also serious political will. After all, the Russian side will have to de facto propose not only the annulment of Niyazov’s decrees, but also, in fact, make changes to the Constitution of Turkmenistan, in article 8 of which it says: "The citizenship of another state is not recognized for a citizen of Turkmenistan." And the Russian constitution states that no one can deprive of Russian citizenship, including the president of Russia, not to mention the president of Turkmenistan. It is not clear how both sides will get out of this impasse, because for the Turkmen side this step is unthinkable in the modern coordinate system, and concessions to the Russian authorities, as if they would not like Turkmen gas, are also unlikely - elections will soon be in Russia. And that's it. Apparently, the parties will decide to “wait”, not to pedal this issue, leaving this legal hole. After all, until the end of the agreement "gas people" is another 21 years. And, as the statistics says, during this time either the donkey or the shah usually dies. Either the gas will end or the Russians will disappear in Turkmenistan. And the problem will be solved by itself.