Cablegate Chronicles: A Yacht for Turkmenistan

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The fallout from the Turkmenistani president's acquisition of a yacht.

FROM: ASHGABAT, TURKMENISTAN
TO: STATE DEPARTMENT
DATE: OCTOBER 23, 2008
CLASSIFICATION: CONFIDENTIAL
SEE FULL CABLE

¶3. (C) According to XXXXXXXXXXXX, Turkmenistan permanently took several of his employees to serve as crew on the presidential yacht. XXXXXXXXXXXX said in a meeting on October 23 that while he was out of the country on holiday, his staff contacted him with the news that the government wanted to borrow or take three important GAC employees: a master, a chief mate, and a chief engineer. The men, however, did not want to go. Less than three days later, his office called him again with the news that security officials were boarding boats as they came into the harbor and taking boat documents, essentially immobilizing them. XXXXXXXXXXXX flew back from Thailand and tried calling Turkmenbashy International Seaport Head Meylis Mutdikov, whose father is a "shadow figure" behind a minister or chairman in the Cabinet of Ministers. Mutdikov wouldn't take XXXXXXXXXXXX's phone calls for several days, but XXXXXXXXXXXX finally made an appointment to meet with Mutdikov in Turkmenbashy. In the middle of the meeting, Mutdikov acted oddly: quite abruptly, he stopped talking and swung his chair around away fromXXXXXXXXXXXX to face the wall. After several moments of awkwardness, XXXXXXXXXXXX asked the interpreter what was the matter, and the interpreter told XXXXXXXXXXXX that Mutdikov was upset that XXXXXXXXXXXX had failed to react quickly to the directive to give up the GAC employees, so now Mutdikov was ignoring XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX practically had to prostrate himself to get the conversation back on track, repeating that the relationship with the harbor authorities is very important, GAC respects Mutdikov, Mutdikov should have called XXXXXXXXXXXX directly, etc.

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