He Was Rumored to Be Dead. So He Drove Out to the Fire Pit

Turkmenistan's president has an odd way of proving he's alive
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2019 1:32 PM CDT

He could've just held up a newspaper with a recent date displayed as proof of life. But that's not how Turkmenistan's president rolls when he wants to quash death rumors and let people know he's very much alive. Last month, a rep for the country's embassy in Moscow told the Tass news agency that rumors swirling about the supposed demise of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who fell out of public view for a few weeks, were an "absolute hoax." But apparently Berdymukhamedov didn't think that had satisfied the masses. That's why this week state broadcaster Watan Habarlary released more confirmation: a video (portions of it here) showing the president engaged in a variety of activities, including bowling, riding a horse, and composing music, per CNN, which notes it's not clear when the portions of the video were shot.

The odd display that's getting the most buzz: a clip in the video seemingly showing the 62-year-old Berdymukhamedov doing doughnuts around the famous Darvaza gas crater, aka the "Gates to Hell," a methane-filled pit that's been on fire for more than four decades. The video shows Berdymukhamedov (supposedly) in a rally car kicking up dust in the Karakum Desert, driving perilously close to the edge of the flames. The video is the president's first appearance on TV since July 15—a strange gap for him, as he's described by ABC Australia as being a "mainstay of state television." Despite his latest antics, CNN notes that Berdymukhamedov has been accused of being an authoritarian ruler over a country said to be a major human-rights violator. (Read more strange stuff stories.)

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