Turkmen president ridiculed for exercise video

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, in Lacoste tracksuit, lecturing officialsImage copyright
Turkmen TV

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President Berdimuhamedov also spoke to officials about the importance of physical culture

A video of Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s workout session has been mocked by social media users in neighbouring Central Asian countries.

First aired on state TV, it shows President Berdimuhamedov teaching law-enforcement officials how to exercise.

A parody of the video by an opposition news website has been viewed almost 200,000 times since Saturday.

The edit by Chrono-tm.org, published on Facebook, includes voiceover and music from the 1989 movie Kickboxer.

Image copyright
Turkmen TV

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Gym attendees included the national security minister (left), and prosecutor-general (right)

The original, which aired on state TV station Altyn Asyr, shows the president coaching officials including the country’s prosecutor-general, interior minister, national security minister and customs chief – they even write down his training instructions and techniques.

Comments in reply to the video – on Chrono-tm’s Facebook page, and Uzbek news pages – have ridiculed it.

“North Korea is nothing compared with this clown,” read one.

“The chief prosecutor and the interior minister look like convicted people here,” one more user laughs.

“This is what happens when an ordinary dentist comes to power,” read one post on a Kazakh news page, referring to his former profession.

There were some Facebook users who defended the Turkmen leader’s initiative, saying that it at least has some health benefits for officials.

Pro-government news website Orient.tm reported such training was “often practised by the Turkmen president to encourage officials to lead an athletic lifestyle”. It added Turkmenistan was lucky to have such a “sports president”.

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Turkmen TV

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Berdimuhamedov was rumoured to have died last summer

Turkmenistan is a repressive and secretive state. President Berdimuhamedov’s regime is autocratic, operating both a cult of personality and a state monopoly of the media, as well as a poor human rights record.

As part of this, he has released several videos demonstrating his abilities, with an emphasis on the population being healthy.

However, when the president was thrown from his horse shortly after a race in 2013, journalists who witnessed his fall were asked to delete all images of the event.

Now the president’s health is being emphasised again, following rumours of his death from kidney failure spread across Russian-language media in the summer which were quelled with Mr Berdimuhamedov’s appearance at an economic forum in August 2019.

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Turkmen TV

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The video was edited along to the track The Eagle Has Landed from Kickboxer

It is the latest in a long line of videos of the president released either by his administration, or in edited form by his political opponents, showcasing his abilities.

In August 2017, state television released a video of the president at a firing range, which a voiceover said exemplified marksmanship “worthy of emulation by military servicemen”. However, rivals spliced the footage together with the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Commando in a video watched nearly a million times on YouTube.

In November 2017, a pro-Berdimunhamedov clip of the president playing basketball while on a bicycle, and demonstrating how to lift weights, was again edited and circulated online by an opposition website.

In June 2019, video again emerged of the president, at a military firing range, and on a bicycle. Again, his opposition edited the video with comic sound effects, and their copy has been viewed 738,000 times to date.


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