|When in doubt, tell the truth. - Mark Twain|
No. 28, 11 February 1993
RUSSIA INITIAL RUSSIAN RESPONSE TO NEW US POSITION ON BOSNIA. Before the announcement of the new US position on Bosnia, US President Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin held a telephone conversation in the evening of 10 February, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputy Foreign Minister Vitalii Churkin stated at a press conference earlier that same evening that Russia and the US had maintained "close contacts" during the US deliberations on the issue. Indeed, Izvestiya of 11 February reported that a "high-level" Russian diplomat had unofficially welcomed the US decision to support the Vance-Owen plan before the new position was announced. The diplomat noted that there were now "real prospects" for the Vance-Owen plan, and that the US and Russia had "adopted a single position" on the issue. The newly appointed US special envoy to the peace talks, Reginald Bartholomew, will visit Russia immediately to discuss the new policy. -John Lepingwell RUSSIAN COUNCIL OF NATIONALITIES DISCUSSES MINSK SUMMIT. In a debate on 10-February in the Council of Nationalities of the Russian parliament on the results of the CIS summit in Minsk, deputies expressed the view that Russia, and particularly its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was underestimating the integrationary tendencies of the former republics of the USSR, ITAR-TASS reported. Deputies suggested that a special service should be set up in the ministry to study integrationary processes in the Commonwealth. One of the key points in the resolution at the end of the debate was the need for the parliament to examine the question of a concept for the further development of relations in the CIS. -Ann Sheehy ZORKIN ON REFERENDUM AND ELECTIONS. At a news conference at the Russian Constitutional Court on 10 February, reported by various Russian media, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, Valerii Zorkin, expanded on his call to postpone the proposed constitutional referendum. He warned that to hold either a referendum or early elections at present could create an "explosive situation," but said that he preferred the idea of simultaneous early presidential and parliamentary elections to President Yeltsin's suggestion that early presidential elections take place a year after parliamentary elections. ITAR-TASS announced that on 11 February Zorkin will meet with President Yeltsin and parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov to discuss solutions to the constitutional impasse. -Wendy Slater CENTRAL BANK DEMANDS DOLLAR BUSINESSES ACCEPT RUBLES TOO. The Russian Central Bank has ordered enterprises and organizations in Moscow that sell goods and services for hard currency to reregister and allow customers to pay in rubles, AFP and ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. Reregistration is to take place before 1 April of this year with the relevant central bank office. Registration of such businesses can be rejected on the grounds that they are not offering their goods for rubles. It is unclear whether the ruble prices charged must be established on the basis of the current official exchange rate. The Central Bank action is the latest attempt to reduce the "dollarization" of the Russian economy. The Bank recently forbid non-imported goods from being sold for dollars in Russia. -Erik Whitlock RUSSIAN MINERS STILL NOT SATISFIED. Despite earlier statements by the chairman of the Russian Independent Miners' Union suggesting that the dispute in the Vorkuta area had been settled, it now seems that not all mines in the Vorkuta area are prepared to accept the deal worked out on 9 February between their union and the government, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February. Some mines are already reported to have staged short warning strikes. According to the miners, the wage tariff agreement signed by the union will not even raise wages by 90%, as was initially claimed, and they point out that workers in the oil, gas and fuel resources sectors have obtained wage increases of 150%. -Sheila Marnie CONSERVATIVE ELECTED SPEAKER OF RUSSIAN PARLIAMENTARY CHAMBER. On 10-February, the Council of the Republic, one of the two chambers of the Russian parliament, elected Veniyamin Sokolov, a member of the right-wing nationalist Rossiya faction, as speaker of the chamber, various Russian agencies reported. The Rossiya faction is chaired by Sergei Baburin, a prominent opponent of President Yeltsin. The speaker's post fell vacant after the election of Nikolai Ryabov as deputy to parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov earlier this year. Sokolov, who before his election as a people's deputy was second secretary of the CPSU Krasnoyarsk regional committee, said in an interview reported by the RFE/RL Russian Service that he opposed early parliamentary elections and was skeptical that Yeltsin and Khasbulatov could reach a lasting agreement on the separation of powers.-Wendy Slater COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN ON RUSSIAN NATIONAL INTERESTS. Evgenii Ambartsumov, chairman of the Russian parliamentary Committee on International Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations, said in Krasnaya zvezda on 11 February that the promotion of Russian national interests rested first and foremost on three policies: insuring the integrity of the country; protecting Russians in the former Soviet republics; joining the world community on the basis of recognition of human rights. His remarks were briefly summarized by ITAR-TASS. -Stephen Foye POLITICAL FORCES IN CHECHNYA CONSOLIDATE. Representatives of the Chechen parliament and the leaders of virtually all the opposition parties in Chechnya met in Groznyi on 10 February, and decided to draw up a joint program for extricating Chechnya from its political and economic crisis, ITAR-TASS reported. The program, which is to be ready in a week, will be submitted for a congress of the peoples of the republics scheduled for March. Yusup Soslambekov. chairman of the parliament's committee on foreign affairs, said that the president, parliament, and leaders of various parties would have to abide by the decisions of the congress; otherwise each would have to answer to the people. -Ann Sheehy GENERAL BLASTS START-2 TREATY. Col. General Vladislav Achalov, since August of 1992 the head of the information-analytical group of the Russian parliament (and an advisor to Ruslan Khasbulatov), is quoted in Pravda on 11 February as suggesting that the START-2 Treaty would obligate Russia to finance a shift to more costly nuclear forces while allowing the US to maintain the basic elements of its existing strategic force structure. His remarks were summarized by ITAR-TASS. Achalov is a former commander of Soviet Airborne Forces and was then a USSR Deputy Defense Minister. He was relieved of the latter duties as a result of his active participation in the August 1991 coup. -Stephen Foye GENERAL COMMENTS ON RUSSIAN DEFENSE BUDGET. Lt. Gen. Vasilii Vorobev, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's Main Administration for Budgeting and Finance, said in Krasnaya zvezda on 10-February that, as a percentage of gross national product, Russia's military budget was now close to that of the US. The ITAR-TASS summary of his comments did not provide a figure, however. Vorobev also said that Russian defense spending had declined steadily since 1989. Turning to the 1993 military budget, Vorobev said that the more than 3 trillion rubles requested by the Defense Ministry in fact represented an expenditure of only 66.4 billion rubles in 1991 prices. In 1991, he said, the military budget was 80.9 billion rubles, while spending in 1992 amounted to 65.5 billion rubles. -Stephen Foye D-MARKS NOW TRADED ON MOSCOW CURRENCY EXCHANGE. The first trading of German marks on the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICE) took place on 10-February, various Western and Russian agencies reported. The exchange rate ended at 337.5-rubles to the mark on a very low trading volume of 1.98 million marks. Ruble-mark trading sessions will be held once a week on the MICE as compared to twice weekly dollar sessions, and will not serve to determine the official Russian Central Bank rate. Although Germany is Russia's single largest trading partner, circulation of the mark in the Russian economy has been very modest, and the cross-exchange rate of marks for dollars on the black market has been significantly lower than the rate on international currency markets. The MICE rates of 337.5 rubles to the mark and 561 rubles to the dollar imply a cross rate of 1.66-marks to the dollar, very close to the international rate. -Erik Whitlock TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJANI DEFENSE MINISTER CRITICIZED FOR MILITARY SETBACK IN KARABAKH. On 9 February, Azerbaijani TV aired a statement by the ruling Azerbaijan Popular Front claiming that the seizure by Armenian forces of part of Nagorno-Karabakh's Mardakert raion was the direct result of "provocative action" by leading officials, including Defense Minister Rahim Gaziev, and was intended to bring about a coup, the Azerbaijan News Service reported. Gaziev protested the report and demanded that an interview with him explaining the reasons for the military setback be aired immediately; otherwise he said he would resign. A detachment of the presidential guard surrounded the TV station the same night; some 2,000 people gathered at the headquarters of the Azerbaijan Popular Front to protest Gaziev's conduct of operations. -Liz Fuller RADIO-TV STRIKE CONTINUES IN KAZAKHSTAN. ITAR-TASS reported on 10 February that most of the employees of Karaganda's state radio and TV company are on strike for the second week. The journalists and technicians are occupying the company's studios in Kazakhstan's most important industrial center to protest the firing of their chief by the regional administration. Neither side in the dispute seems inclined to budge: the administration refuses to reinstate the former chief, whom it had accused of poor professional performance, and the strikers are demanding that the radio and TV concern be freed from state control and that what they describe as the hidden censorship of the work of the company's journalists be ended. -Bess Brown ARMENIAN OPPOSITION REJECTS PRESIDENT'S INVITATION. In a statement by the leadership of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaks) carried by ITAR-TASS on 10 February, Armenian opposition parties rejected President Ter-Petrossyan's invitation to participate in forming a new government to replace that which resigned last week. Creation of a national government will be possible only after legislation is passed delineating the respective powers of the president and the government, the statement continued. It further identified as the primary cause of Armenia's catastrophic political and economic situation the lack of a constitution and the concentration of power in the hands of the president. -Liz Fuller KYRGYZ PRESIDENT SEEKS RUSSIAN ASSISTANCE. Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on 10 February; ITAR-TASS noted that their discussion was officially described as dealing with relations between the two countries, but economic cooperation was almost certainly at the top of the list. Kyrgyzstan's economy has declined drastically since the country became independent, dragging down living standards. Industrial and energy output has declined a third in comparison with the same period in 1992. A number of foreign countries have promised assistance to Kyrgyzstan but it has not materialized. -Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE US ANNOUNCES POLICY ON BOSNIA. International media on 11 February generally lead with the story that the US set down its policy on Bosnia-Herzegovina the previous day. Secretary of State Warren Christopher announced a six-point approach in Washington, and President Bill Clinton later referred to Bosnia during a "town meeting" in Detroit. Christopher's points included: naming veteran diplomat Reginald Bartholomew as special envoy; stressing that any solution must be based on negotiations; recommending that sanctions on Serbia be tightened; urging the establishment of a war crimes tribunal; making US forces available to enforce any agreement reached as part of an internationally authorized effort; and pledging to work closely with America's allies, including Russia, to find and enforce a solution. -Patrick Moore SOME SURPRISES. Many observers noted that the six points do not include some proposals that had been expected on the basis of some of Governor Clinton's statements during the 1992 election campaign. These included: a call to enforce a no-fly zone over Bosnia; the use of American aircraft to attack Serbian tank and artillery positions, along with other Serbian military targets; and, above all, a recommendation that the UN lift its arms embargo on Bosnia to enable the mainly Muslim Bosnian forces to be able to defend their homes. The suggestion that American ground troops might be made available to help in a multinational peace effort, moreover, was anything but a foregone conclusion. -Patrick Moore DISAPPOINTMENT AMONG MUSLIMS. The Muslims had hoped for a significant American departure from the Vance-Owen plan, which they regard as sanctioning Serbian gains made through ethnic cleansing. But the Washington Post quoted an unnamed US official as saying that the final map of a peace settlement "will reflect the results of 'ethnic cleansing' to some degree [which] is regrettable, but that is the reality we must deal with." The BBC said that Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic gave the American statement a "cautious welcome," but added that the Muslims were bound to be disappointed by Washington's policy, which they had come to regard as their "last hope." The Serbs did not seem to share the Muslim's view, and the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic told the BBC that the American approach is "very good," adding that he welcomes a US role in the Balkans. -Patrick Moore UKRAINE CLEARED IN SANCTIONS CASE. Western press agencies reported on 10 February that a UN inspection team found no evidence that Ukraine had violated UN sanctions by shipping oil to Serbia. The oil barges did leave from a Ukrainian port but had documents listing destinations elsewhere in central Europe. The inspectors noted that the presence of Serbian oil barges with Serbian crews should have raised some suspicions among Ukrainian customs officials, however. -John Lepingwell UN DEMANDS RELEASE OF ROMANIAN SHIPS. The UN Security Council demanded on 10-February that the Belgrade authorities release three Romanian tugboats still detained in Serbian Danube ports, Western agencies reported. The Security Council said it is unacceptable for rump Yugoslavia to detain ships in retaliation for enforcement of UN sanctions. A fourth tug, towing three barges with a cargo of sugar, was released and reached Romanian waters on 8-February. -Dan Ionescu SERBIA'S NEW GOVERNMENT. Radio Serbia reports on 10 February that Serbia's national assembly elected a new government headed by Nikola Sainovic, a Socialist. Sainovic resigned last November as economics minister protesting former Prime Minister Milan Panic's "practice of catering to foreign interests." Sainovic's government is comprised of five deputy prime ministers and 21 ministers and remains fundamentally the same as the one headed by Radoman Bozovic. Sainovic's program calls for the revitalization of federal functions with Montenegro, an emphasis on "entrepreneurship" in the economy, continuity in foreign policy, and continued support for peace efforts in Bosnia and Croatia. He also called for talks with leaders of Serbia's large Albanian and Hungarian minorities. -Milan Andrejevich MECIAR'S PLANS TO VISIT BRUSSELS HIGHLIGHT GROWING SPLIT. The Slovak daily Narodna obroda reported on 10 February that Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar will travel to Brussels on 23 February, where he is to meet with European Commission head Jacques Delors. CTK reported from Bratislava on 10 February that Foreign Minister Milan Knazko, his ministry, and other ministries were not informed about Meciar's plans. The trip was allegedly prepared by Meciar's foreign policy adviser, Roman Zelenay, who, according to some observers, could replace Knazko as foreign minister. Knazko was to visit Brussels on 8 and 9-February, but his trip was cancelled by the Slovak government allegedly because Knazko failed to consult with other ministers in preparing the trip. During a meeting of the leadership of the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia on 6 February, called to discuss disciplinary actions against Knazko and another MDS leader, Rudolf Filkus, Meciar called on Knazko to resign as foreign minister. Knazko refused to do so. -Jiri Pehe SUCHOCKA: ALL OR NOTHING. "If we do not succeed in defending a good budget in the parliament, the government will be unable to pursue its economic policy." This was Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka's message to parliamentary leaders on 10 February. Suchocka hinted but did not publicly confirm that the government will resign if the Sejm approves a budget with a deficit exceeding 81 trillion zloty ($5 billion). After a two-hour session with coalition leaders, the prime minister held a joint meeting with ruling and opposition parties: a first in Poland's postcommunist history. The only party not to send a representative was Jan Olszewski's Movement for the Republic. The meeting failed to sway the opposition, however, and the budget vote on 12 February remains too close to call. Gazeta Wyborcza calculated on 11 February that the coalition controls 206 votes and the opposition 209, of a total 460. Coalition members have been instructed to cancel all travel and urged not to leave the Sejm building. Solidarity union deputies may now control the outcome; the union leadership meets on 11 February to decide how to vote. President Lech Walesa met on 10-February with the Solidarity caucus, and repeated his threat to dissolve parliament if the vote goes against the government. -Louisa Vinton POLISH POLICE TO GET NEW POWERS. The government on 9 February approved draft legislation drawn up by the internal affairs ministry that would significantly increase the powers of the police in the fight against corruption and organized crime. The legislation would impose stiff prison sentences for the possession of narcotics and radioactive materials; permit "sting" operations against people suspected of corruption, forgery, and terrorism; ease restrictions on wire-tapping and postal surveillance; allow police officers to use firearms when pursuing crime suspects and forcibly take fingerprints from suspects who refuse to show identification. Internal Affairs Minister Andrzej Milczanowski told Polish TV on 9 February that the measures are necessary to fight new and more brutal types of crime appearing in Poland. The proposals have been submitted to the coalition parties for consideration. -Louisa Vinton HUNGARIAN COURT RULES ON CHURCH PROPERTY. Hungary's Constitutional Court ruled on 9-February that it is not unconstitutional to return elementary school buildings to their original church owners, MTI reports. The court was called upon to decide whether the law on restitution for church property taken away under Communism was inimical to the freedom of individual conscience. Opposition parties argued that it would be unconstitutional to return school buildings to the churches in smaller, single-school communities where children would then have no opportunity to attend state schools. The court also ruled that it is the duty of the state to create conditions for "neutral education" (free of religious teaching) without burdening students unduly by busing them long distances. -Judith Pataki ROMANIAN UNIONS ACCEPT MORE TALKS ON LABOR CONTRACT. Union leaders and employers decided to resume talks on an all-country collective labor contract on 11 February. The decision came after a meeting at government headquarters the previous day. Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu offered to mediate in a dispute over wage demands and other claims threatening to escalate into a nationwide strike. The agreement reached on 10-February provides for more talks on such unresolved issues as the minimum wage and the relation between prices and salaries. In an interview with Radio Bucharest, Victor Ciorbea, leader of the National Confederation of Romania's Free Trade Unions, expressed hopes that the new round of negotiations will help defuse tensions. NCRFTU is one of the largest among the 15 confederations taking part in the negotiations. -Dan Ionescu TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTER TO BUCHAREST. Turkish Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin will pay a two-day official visit to Romania beginning 11 February. In an interview with Radio Bucharest on 10 February, Romania's ambassador to Ankara, Alexandru Margaritescu, said that the two sides will discuss bilateral and other issues. Romania and Turkey are interested in boosting political and economic ties, as well as contacts in such fields as in culture, science, sports and health. The Yugoslav crisis will figure high on the visit's agenda. The Romanian Foreign Ministry has also announced that Greek Foreign Minister Michael Papaconstantinou will begin a 24-hour visit to Romania on 13 February. -Dan Ionescu …ZAL PLANS BALKAN VISITS. The Turkish government has announced that President Turgut …zal is planning a series of visits next week, Reuters reports. He will meet with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev on 15-17 February, Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov on the 17th and 18th, and Albanian President Sali Berisha on the 18th through the 20th. Talks will focus on bilateral and international questions, especially the Balkan situation and the war in Bosnia. -Charles Trumbull KAZAKH GOVERNMENT DELEGATION IN SOFIA. A large Kazakh government delegation spent 9 and 10-February in Sofia at the invitation of Bulgarian Prime Minister Lyuben Berov. Led by Premier Sergei Tereshchenko, the Kazakh delegation included five ministers and other top officials. BTA reports that the talks were mainly devoted to issues concerning bilateral economic ties. Berov said that Bulgaria is interested to cooperate in the fields of electrical engineering, hoisting technology, food processing, and tourism. At a meeting with Tereshchenko on 10 February, President Zhelyu Zhelev said a friendship and cooperation treaty could be ready by late May 1993. -Kjell Engelbrekt UKRAINE WANTS IMMEDIATE WESTERN AID. President Leonid Kravchuk, on an official visit to Great Britain, told reporters on 10 February that the fate of economic reforms in his country depends on quick Western aid, Reuters reports. Kravchuk said that such aid should not be made conditional on progress towards reform because this places the country in a vicious circle. But Prime Minister John Major is reported to have balked at promising new financial aid, although he restated his commitment to technical assistance. Kravchuk meets with Queen Elizabeth and British industrialists on 11 February. -Roman Solchanyk UKRAINE REJECTS SECURITY GUARANTEE AS INADEQUATE. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has stated that Russia's security guarantee fails to meet Ukraine's "minimal demands" for ratification of the START-1 treaty. According to Western press agency reports of 10 February, the Russian statement does not guarantee Ukraine's territorial integrity or existing borders. At the Yeltsin-Kravchuk summit on 15 January, Yeltsin stated that Russia would provide an adequate guarantee, but the text of the guarantee, if it has been finalized, has not been released. Ostankino TV on 10-February reported that Ukrainian parliamentary chairman Ivan Pliushch called for further clarification of security and financial issues related to START-1 and hinted that the legislature is in no hurry to consider the treaty at its next session, noting that "I do not see a problem whether this treaty is ratified in February, March, or April." -John Lepingwell MOLDOVAN-RUSSIAN TROOP TALKS DEADLOCKED. Moldova's presidential office told the RFE/RL Research Institute that the talks between Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Mircea Snegur in Moscow on 9-February failed to make progress regarding the withdrawal of Russia's 14th Army from Moldova. Previous expectations that Russia would agree to begin the withdrawal by 1994 were dampened by Yeltsin's refusal to discuss any timetable and his insistence on linking any future withdrawal to the determination of the political status of Transdniestria. Yeltsin reportedly also argued that the presence of the 14th Army is a guarantee against a resumption of the conflict-a position that fails to recognize that army's role in fueling the conflict and also the fact that Russia has a peacekeeping contingent in the area in addition to the 14th Army, which has no peacekeeping mandate. -Vladimir Socor "MORE TROOPS NEEDED?" ASKS ESTONIA. Col.Gen. Leonid Mayorov, Commander of Russian's Northwest Group of Forces, asked Estonian President Lennart Meri on 10 February to allow more troops to enter Estonia in order to help implement the withdrawal, BNS reports. Mayorov said the additional soldiers are needed to dismantle equipment and guard arms and ammunition depots. Mayorov also requested that troops be allowed to resume shooting practice in order to improve their combat readiness. Meri reportedly referred all proposals to the existing framework of withdrawal negotiations. Mayorov was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Mart Laar, but the Russian general "did not turn up in time," BNS reports. -Riina Kionka NARVA TO UN: TRADE WITH WEST VIOLATES RIGHTS. A UN human rights delegation began its two-day tour of northeastern Estonia on 10 February by meeting with local officials in Narva, BNS reports. At the meeting, city officials gave the UN delegation prepared materials suggesting that Estonia is violating human rights by purposely breaking economic ties with Russia in favor of developing markets with the West, despite the fact that many Narva enterprises oriented toward the eastern market. The UN delegation reportedly responded by asking city officials how they have gone about integrating local residents into Estonian society. The delegation continued its tour in Kohtla-Jarve in the evening. -Riina Kionka HELICOPTER DETAINED IN LATVIA RETURNED TO RUSSIA. On 10 February Deputy Foreign Minister for Eastern Affairs Aivars Vevers told BNS that the Russian MI-8 helicopter confiscated by Latvian border guards on 29 January near Ventspils for illegally crossing into Latvian air space from Estonia was returned the previous day. It was returned unconditionally although the Foreign Ministry sent a note last week calling on Russia to respect Latvia's air space, which is still being violated constantly. -Saulius Girnius "ACT OF POLITICAL RECONCILIATION" IN LITHUANIA. On 10 February Lithuanian newspapers published an "Act of Political Reconciliation," proposed by presidential candidate Stasys Lozoraitis, urging political parties to form a broad coalition, Radio Lithuania reports. He called on Acting President Algirdas Brazauskas to assume the post of prime minister to ensure stable cooperation between the Seimas and government. Although the Social Democratic and National Party chairmen expressed their support for the act, Brazauskas told a press conference that too little time remains to discuss it before the presidential elections on 14 February. -Saulius Girnius [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Hal Kosiba and Charles TrumbullTHE RFE/RL DAILY REPORT IS PRODUCED BY THE RFE/RL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (A DIVISION OF RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, INC.) with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division (NCA). The report is available by electronic mail via LISTSERV (RFERL-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU), on the Sovset' computer bulletin board, by fax, and by postal mail. For inquiries about specific news items, subscriptions, or additional copies, please contact: in USA: Mr. Jon Lodeesen or Mr. Brian Reed, RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC-20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 or -6900; fax: (202) 457-6992 or -202-828-8783; Internet: RIDC@RFERL.ORG or in Europe: Ms. Helga Hofer, Publications Department, RFE/RL Research Institute, Oettingenstrasse 67, 8000 Munich 22; Telephone: (+49 89) 2102-2631 or -2642; fax: (+49 89) 2102-2648, Internet: PD@RFERL.ORG 1992, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. RFE/RL Daily Report
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