"The People's Council of Turkmenia has sentenced the republic's former vice-premier Boris Shikhmuradov to life imprisonment, making him slander himself under the effect of psychotropic preparations," says the Cypriot newspaper Politis. The publication also draws attention to the fact that "Saparmurat Niyazov is becoming increasingly notorious for his dictatorial methods of rule in that Central Asian oil- and gas-rich republic".
"Shown on Cypriot television, footage of Shikhmuradov's confession raises doubts among many that the former vice-premier who gave himself up to save his relatives' lives, could indeed be involved in a plot against the head of that state," Politis goes on.
To judge by the television picture, Shikhmuradov's words were pre-taped in a closed room, where he sat in front of a television camera against the backdrop of a white wall. Nothing was said of his whereabouts.
Shikhmuradov, according to the story put out by Turkmen television, said, among other things, "We, living in Russia, engaged in using drugs and, in the state of intoxication, recruited mercenaries for carrying out a terrorist act. Our task was to destabilize the situation in Turkmenia, erode the constitutional system and make an attempt on the life of the president." The detention of Shikhmuradov was announced on December 26 in Ashkhabad by President Saparmurat Niyazov at a meeting with foreign diplomats.
Meanwhile, according to the Turkmen opposition, Shikhmuradov himself turned himself in to the authorities after many of his relatives had been arrested in Turkmenia, out of fear for their fate.
The ex-vice-premier, as follows from his aired statement, said: "It was too late that I realized that President Saparmurat Niyazov is a gift to the people of Turkmenistan from above". Shikhmuradov said that he had "slandered his country, that there is no opposition but a criminal group was set up instead it." In the case on facts of engineering a state coup in Turkmenia, apart from Shikhmuradov, another 47 people have been arrested, including many former high-ranking officials.