Russian PM To Travel To Turkmenistan Amid President Death Rumors

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev plans to travel to Turkmenistan later this month amid persistent rumors that the Central Asian nation's autocratic leader has died.

Medvedev will visit Turkmenistan on August 1112 to take part in the first Caspian Economic Forum, his press service said in a statement.

Medvedev is scheduled to meet with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov during his trip to discuss bilateral issues, the statement said.

Berdymukhammedov's failure to appear in public since July 5, not even during a July 6 visit to the capital, Ashgabat, by EU foreignpolicy chief Federica Mogherini, has fueled speculation about the state of his health.

Turkmen authorities have repeatedly said the president is on vacation until August 15 even though the longplanned forum starts earlier.

On July 15, state media released an undated video purporting to show 62yearold Berdymukhammedov working on a new book, watching footage of himself performing a song, and taking a walk with his granddaughters.

Turkmenistan is described by rights groups as having one of the most closed societies and oppressive governments in the world, with all aspects of public life controlled by Berdymukhammedov and his associates.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.