Gun-toting president of Turkmenistan goes Commando in state TV footage

After serenading the country in song and on his guitar, pumping iron in a gym, DJing and finishing first in car and horse races galore, Turkmenistan’s unconventional president has showcased another of his many talents.

State media has broadcast footage of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, dressed in a commando outfit and sunglasses, firing at targets with an automatic rifle and pistol and throwing knives all with predictable pin-point accuracy.

After winning the admiring applause of a row of military personnel, the president who, against eight other candidates, won 98% of the popular vote in this year’s election was then shown calling in a helicopter airstrike.

“Picking up one of the weapons presented to him, the head of state demonstrated the precision of his aim, which served as evidence of his high level of military preparedness,” the state news agency said, according to independent local media.

“After that, the president demonstrated his mastery of target-shooting with a pistol,” the agency said, “then demonstrated his skills in the artful handling of knives by precisely casting daggers at a distant target.”

An opposition website, Chronicles of Turkmenistan, edited the footage together with clips and music from the 1985 action movie Commando showing Arnold Schwarzenegger lacing his boots, snapping shut his ammunition belt, applying camouflage and thrusting his knife into its sheath.

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Turkmenistan president mocked in footage originally designed to show off his military skills

The Eurasianet website said the original footage was filmed during an inspection of troops at a border station south of the capital, Ashgabat, on Tuesday. The president’s audience dressed as ordinary soldiers was in fact the heads of the military, police, security services, prosecutor’s office and customs service.

Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist, became health minister under the country’s previous president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who was known for renaming the months of the year after himself and his mother.

After taking over the presidency following Niyazov’s death, the head of state dismantled his predecessor’s personality cult, but then soon began building his own. Turkmenistan has no free media and is widely described as the world’s second-most isolated state after North Korea.




Berdymukhamedov in another still from the footage. Photograph: Chronicles of Turkmenistan

In 2015 a 21-metre high statue of Berdymukhamedov mounted on a horse, cast in bronze and covered in 24-carat gold leaf, was unveiled in Ashgabat. But not all of his stunts succeed: in 2013, during the country’s annual Day of the Horse celebrations, the president fell off his horse mid-race.

While he was not seriously injured, security personnel searched the crowd at the exit to prevent video of the fall from being shared. They were unsuccessful, and footage that surfaced online has since been viewed tens of thousands of times.

Last year a commission led by the president rewrote the constitution to extend the presidential term to seven years from five and remove the upper age limit on candidates, paving the way for Berdymukhamedov to rule for life.

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