A security sweep in Turkmenistan, coming in response to an assassination attempt against President Saparmurat Niyazov, is expanding. Niyazov has accused the Russian government of abetting a conspiracy to kill him, and is reportedly planning to purge all government workers in Ashgabat holding dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship. Meanwhile, Russia appears to be backing off earlier pledges to cooperate with Turkmenistan.
At the same time, the US government has criticized Turkmen authorities for rights violations connected with mass arrests made since the November 25 assassination attempt in Ashgabat. [For additional details see the Eurasia Insight archives]. Specifically, Washington has complained about the treatment of a dual American-Russian citizen arrested November 26, and identified by Russian media as Leonid Komarovsky.
"While we understand the government of Turkmenistan's desire to investigate thoroughly the attack [against Niyazov], we are concerned by the manner in which the investigation is being conducted," US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said in a December 3 statement. "We are also concerned that the US Embassy did not receive immediate notification of, and was not allowed timely consular access to an arrested American citizen in clear violation of Turkmenistan's obligations under international law."
At a cabinet meeting December 2, Niyazov shrugged off foreign criticism of his response to the assassination attempt, as well as anti-government protests that are reported to have taken place in Turkmenistan. "They [foreign governments] try to challenge us, and if we fight them, they say,