ASHGABAT (TCA) — 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, RFE/RL reported.
Medvedev will visit Turkmenistan on August 11-12 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 foreign-policy 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 long-planned forum starts earlier.
On July 21, rumors on social media and unconfirmed reports by Russian news outlets claimed Berdymukhammedov had died.
Diplomats at Turkmen embassies abroad have rejected the rumors of the president’s death as "absolute lies".
Turkmen state TV showed video footage of Berdymukhammedov at a construction site in the capital, Ashgabat, stating that it was recorded on July 24.
According to Chronicles of Turkmenistan independent foreign-based news website, Berdymukhammedov’s absence in public was due to the critical condition of his mother, Ogulabat Berdymukhammedova, who, according to reports as of 21 July, had been undergoing a course of medical treatment in Germany.
Turkmenistan is described by rights groups as having one of the most closed societies and oppressive governments in the world.