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Cablegate: Turkmenistan: Russian Embassy "Soft Power" Falls

VZCZCXRO5488
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDF RUEHIK RUEHLH RUEHLN RUEHLZ
RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAH #0214 0430502
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 120502Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0255
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0243
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 3370
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1186
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1053
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1622
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 0062
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0001
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 0001
RHMFIUU/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2211
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0719

UNCLAS ASHGABAT 000214

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, SCA/PPD, EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SCUL KPAO RS TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: RUSSIAN EMBASSY "SOFT POWER" FALLS
A BIT FLAT

1. (U) Sensitive but unclassified. Not for public Internet.

2. (SBU) The Russian Embassy opened an exhibit at the
National Art Museum on February 11 -- photographs of
Turkmenistan taken by Russian Embassy diplomats. In his
opening speech, Russian Ambassador Igor Blatov noted the
exhibit coincides with the first anniversary of President
Gurbanguly Myalikguliyevich Berdimuhamedov's election. His
translator mangled the president's name and had to try three
times to get it out. Blatov added that the exhibit, even
more importantly, is in honor of Russian Diplomatic Workers'
Day. He noted, "Most countries don't honor their diplomatic
workers, so we invite you to join us for this celebration."

3. (SBU) Apart from Russian Embassy employees and local
culture-vultures, the turn-out was rather sparse. Deputy
Foreign Minister Vepa Hajiyev and several Ministry of Culture
representatives attended from the Government of Turkmenistan.
Blatov walked off the stage before introducing the
host-government officials, and so a Ministry of Culture
representative asked to take the microphone to declare the
exhibit open, but the microphpone was already turned off.
The only diplomats who attended, other than the Charge, were
the Iranian DCM who is a happy-go-lucky glad-hander, the
ever-glowering DCM of Belarus, the Polish Ambassador, the
Turkish DCM, and the Tajikistani Ambassador who will attend
anything if there's the possibility of a buffet and open bar.
However, the buffet was decidedly downscale, and only a few
die-hards stayed for it. The bar closed after the first
round of drinks. Charge noticed the bartenders then slugging
back the vodka.

4. (SBU) COMMENT: The concept was a good idea -- diplomats
celebrate the host country. And several of the photos were
above snap-shot quality. But all in all, the opening seemed
to lack the elan and professionalism one would expect from a
polished public diplomacy event. END COMMENT.
HOAGLAND

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