|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 233, 07 December 1993
RUSSIA YELTSIN TO ISSUE DECREE ON NORTH OSSETIA/INGUSHETIA. Russian President Boris Yeltsin told a gathering of North Caucasian leaders in Nalchik on 7-December that in his talks on 6 December with North Ossetian and Ingush leaders agreement had been reached on stabilizing relations between Ingushetia and North Ossetia, ITAR-TASS reported. Yeltsin said that a decree that he would be signing on 13 December would help resolve the Ingush-Ossetian conflict. Following talks in Chermen in Prigorodnyi Raion on 6-December, Yeltsin's press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov had said that Yeltsin would probably order the resettlement of Ingush in four settlements in Prigorodnyi Raion with the assistance of interior troops and the army. In other words, he apparently intends to override the objections of the North Ossetian leadership who have consistently argued that Ossetians and Ingush cannot live together. The North Ossetian prime minister Sergei Khetagurov warned against rushing a decision and returning the refugees by force, Interfax reported on 6 December. -Ann Sheehy MOST COAL MINERS RETURN TO WORK. Most of the striking coal miners agreed to return to work on 7-December, although 12 mines in the Vorkuta region were expected to remain idle, Russian and Western agencies reported late on 6 December. The decision to halt the strike was made after miners' representatives and the chief government negotiator, Deputy Labor Minister Yurii Shatyrenko, had reached agreement on most of the 25 demands made by the unions. One of the demands that was not accepted was that miners should have a say in the composition of the cabinet. The Vorkuta miners were said to be holding out for firmer guarantees on the payment of back wages. -Keith Bush YAVLINSKY INVITES GAIDAR FOR TV DEBATE. Economist Grigorii Yavlinsky has proposed to Russia's Choice leader Egor Gaidar that the two hold a debate on national television on the future of economic reform, Ekho Moskvy reported on 6 December. Yavlinsky said that many voters have requested such a debate because they do not understand the differences between the economic programs of Yavlinsky's bloc and Russia's Choice. Yavlinsky and Gaidar both invited the Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov and Liberal-Democratic Party chief Vladimir Zhirinovsky to join them in a broad debate on national television on 9-December. -Alexander Rahr NO AGREEMENT REACHED BETWEEN DEMOCRATIC BLOCS. The leader of the Republican Party, Vladimir Lysenko, told Ostankino television news on 6-December that, contrary to other reports, the pro-democratic electoral blocs have failed to agree on supporting one joint candidate in single-member constituencies. So far only sociologist Viktor Sheinis has agreed to withdraw his candidacy in an electoral constituency in Moscow in favor of a candidate of Russia's Choice. Sheinis remains, however, on the list of the Yavlinsky-Boldyrev-Lukin bloc for elections to the State Duma under federal "party" lists. -Alexander Rahr BANKERS PROTEST MURDERS. The Association of Russian Commercial Bankers has sent an appeal to President Yeltsin and has declared 7 December to be a day of mourning to protest the recent spate of killings of bankers in what are believed to have been Mafia attacks, Russian agencies reported. The day of mourning coincides with the funeral of the former chairman of the Rosselkhozbank, Nikolai Likhachev, who was murdered on 2 December. According to Izvestiya, more than 30 Russian bankers, some of them quite prominent, have been killed during the past year. -Keith Bush SUPPORT FOR REGIONAL AUTONOMY. Marshal Evgenii Shaposhnikov, running for parliament on the list of the Russian Movement for Democratic Reform, was quoted by ITAR-TASS on 2 December as saying that the constituent republics of the Russian Federation should be responsible for all issues affecting themselves except defense, security, energy and transport, which should be under the jurisdiction of the center. -Alexander Rahr MINIMUM WAGE RAISED. On 6 December, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree raising the minimum wage in the state sector to 14,620 rubles a month effective 1-December, Russian and Western agencies reported. Stipends for students and other transfer payments are to be amended accordingly. The last raise in the minimum wage for state sector workers and employees appears to have been that approved by parliament on 14 July, effective 1 July, when the sum was increased from 4,275 rubles to 7,740 rubles a month (ITAR-TASS, 14 July). The government had at that time opposed the hike, saying that it would cost an additional 3 trillion rubles during the second half of the year. As to the timing of the latest decree, just ahead of the election, a government spokesman claimed that it was purely fortuitous. -Keith Bush WESTERN AID SAID TO BE MISDIRECTED. The general secretary of the Council of Europe, Catherine Lalumiere, has called for a reexamination of the way in which Western aid is given to Central and Eastern Europe, Reuters reported on 6 December. She asserted that almost all of the $42 billion donated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had gone "to businessmen and financiers with private consultants as mediators." -Keith Bush US, RUSSIA CONSIDER DE-TARGETING MISSILES. The New York Times and Reuters reported on 6 December that the US was considering targeting at ocean areas those ICBMs kept on alert. . This is intended to further reduce tensions and prevent damage in the event of an accidental launch. The missiles could, however, be retargeted in a very short time. Commander of the Russian Strategic Forces Colonel General Igor Sergeev discussed the proposal with US officials during a visit to the US last week. While President Yeltsin stated in January 1992 that Russian missiles were no longer targeted on US cities, his comments were later dismissed by Russian military officials. More recently, Ukrainian politicians have suggested that they might remove US targets from the ICBMs on their territory, raising questions as to who actually controls the targeting process. -John Lepingwell RUSSIA, KUWAIT PLAN JOINT NAVAL EXERCISES. The Russian ship Admiral Vinogradov is sailing to the Persian Gulf to participate in naval exercises with Kuwaiti naval vessels in late December, Interfax reported on 6 December. The joint exercises are the first result of the Russia-Kuwait defense cooperation agreement signed in Moscow last week. While in Russia, the Kuwaiti defense minister met with President Yeltsin, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, and other high-ranking Russian officials, who apparently tried convince the minister of high-level support for Russian arms sales to the Gulf region. -John Lepingwell CIS CHURKIN ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN UKRAINE AND KAZAKHSTAN. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Valerii Churkin on 6 December rebutted Ukrainian claims that the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) had not criticized Ukraine's ratification of START-1, and noted that NACC delegates had called for full implementation of the treaty and the Lisbon protocol. According to Interfax, Churkin also rejected reports based on comments by Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov (see RFE/RL Daily Report no. 232) to the effect that Russia is concerned over Kazakhstan's position on nuclear weapons. Churkin noted that Kazakhstan has ratified the START-1 treaty and Lisbon protocol, and has expressed its intention to ratify the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by the end of the year. According to Churkin, Kazakhstan has no "nuclear ambitions" and the delays were due to Russian-Kazakhstan consultations. He said that he expected the issue of compensation for the nuclear warheads in Kazakhstan to be resolved without difficulty. -John Lepingwell TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA AZERBAIJAN INTRODUCES MILITARY CENSORSHIP. On 6 December the Azerbaijan National Assembly passed a law on censorship providing for the closure for one month of publications that print material deemed to contain military secrets or to insult state figures, and for the prosecution of the journalists responsible, according to a correspondent for RFE/RL. On 3 December the sole newspaper to appear in Azerbaijan was the pro-Aliev daily Azerbaijan; editors of other newspapers rejected as untrue the official explanation cited, i.e. a shortage of printing plates. On 4 December a US State Department spokeswoman expressed concern that the move was aimed at curtailing media freedom. -Liz Fuller TAJIK GOVERNMENT AGAIN REJECTS TALKS WITH OPPOSITION. A top Tajik government official, First Deputy Supreme Soviet Chairman Abdulmajid Dostiev, told journalists in Dushanbe on 6 December that Tajikistan's leadership has not and does not intend to negotiate with the armed Tajik opposition because the opposition has no support within the country, Reuters reported. In mid-summer Tajikistan's CIS allies-Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan-which are providing military assistance to protect the Tajik-Afghan border, pressured Tajikistan's leaders to enter a dialogue with the armed opposition which has been conducting attacks on the border from Afghan territory for most of the year. Tajik officials at first demurred, saying that the opposition are wanted criminals, but later claimed to be conducting talks with leaders of the Tajik refugees in Afghanistan. Dostiev said that an offer of mediation by Afghanistan was not pursued because Afghanistan is too unstable. -Bess Brown TURKMEN PROPOSAL TO CANCEL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION. The Democratic (formerly Communist) Party of Turkmenistan has published a proposal in the official daily Turkmenistan calling for the 1997 presidential election to be cancelled, RFE/RL learned on 3-December. The party, which is a mouthpiece of President Saparmurad Niyazov, claimed that cancelling the election would enable Niyazov to implement his 10year program for the country's economic and political development. The proposal is to be put to a session of the Halk maslahaty, a sort of ceremonial super-congress of prominent people. -Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN UPDATE. Reuters on 6 December reported that Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic criticized Serbian forces for deliberately targeting areas where large numbers of people gather. He said that the Serbs were trying to save ammunition by shelling concentrations of people rather than shelling at random as before. Western news agencies also reported an offensive over the weekend by forces loyal to maverick Bihac pocket leader Fikret Abdic against Bosnian government troops. Abdic's men apparently attacked via Serb-held territory. The 26 November Globus charged that Abdic, who has a long-standing reputation as a wheeler-dealer, is diverting food shipments from Croatia destined for his own people to surrounding Serb-held towns. Finally, Vjesnik reports on 7 December on President Franjo Tudjman's regular press conference the previous day. He stressed that Croatia was willing to discuss possible exchanges of territory or other steps to accommodate Muslim wishes for an access to the sea, but that Bosnia's coastal town of Neum, with its predominantly ethnic Croatian population, would "remain Croatian." Tudjman has been widely criticized in the past for offering territorial exchanges, not least of all by people in the areas directly affected. -Patrick Moore BRITAIN TO BE ACCUSED OF COMPLICITY IN GENOCIDE? AN RFE/RL CORRESPONDENT REPORTED FROM LONDON ON 6 DECEMBER THAT A GROUP OF INTERNATIONAL PRO-BOSNIAN ACTIVISTS PLANS TO HOLD A CONFERENCE STARTING 9 DECEMBER IN THE BRITISH CAPITAL. Among the issues on the agenda will the possibility of suing Britain for allegedly aiding genocide by blocking Western proposals to arm the Bosnian Muslims. British government sources expressed "astonishment" at the idea, but Croatian and Muslim media have long regarded London's Balkan policy as cynical and opportunistic, aimed at backing a strong Serbian state as a counterbalance to German influence in the Balkans. International negotiator Lord Owen is frequently seen in Croatia and Bosnia as a representative of such a policy, and businessman George Soros recently criticized British activities in Bosnia on a trip to Sarajevo. -Patrick Moore PDP LEADERSHIP OUSTED. Leaders of Macedonia's largest Albanian party, the Party for Democratic Prosperity, have been ousted in an organization-wide purge. Nine members of the governing national committee representing all regions, voted to remove the president, vice president and all regional leaders of the party. The committee insists that a party congress be called in December to select a new leadership according to Nova Makedonija. Outgoing leaders will remain in office until a new slate is chosen. The change reflects serious dissatisfaction among rank and file members with the lack of progress toward greater rights for Albanians. -Ismije Beshiri POPULAR RESIGNATION IN CROATIA. Vecernji list on 4 December ran a poll of attitudes toward the government's economic program and of perceptions of one's own economic position. Nearly half of the respondents gave Prime Minister Nikica Valentic average marks for his stabilization program, which is now 60 days old, while almost another third said his performance was above average. Over half of the respondents said that their opinions of the program were the same as when it was launched, while 20% have since raised their assessment of Valentic's project and another 17% have lowered theirs. Some 44% said their personal economic situation was bad and another 15% felt it was very bad. Over half of the respondents expected no change in their status in the next six months. Elsewhere, Globus on 26 November ran a poll on the popularity of numerous figures from various walks of public life. The hands-down winner was tennis star Goran Ivanisevic, with Cardinal Franjo Kuharic coming in a distant second. President Franjo Tudjman followed a few places behind, but was still the most popular politician. At the bottom of the scale were electronic media chief Antun Vrdoljak and one of the leaders of the right wing of the ruling party, Vladimir Seks. -Patrick Moore MACEDONIA HAS A NEW CHIEF PRELATE. The new head of the Mascedonian Orthodox Church is 81 year old Metropolitian Mihail (christened Metodi Gogov). He was installed on 5-December in Ohrid after being elected by the Church's Holy Synod, MIC reported. He is the fourth head of this Church, which was established in 1967. -Duncan Perry POLISH GOVERNMENT TO PROMOTE EXPORTS. At its inaugural meeting on 6 December, the new government's economic committee (KERM) approved plans to increase exports and control imports. These include raising the capital of the Export Credits Insurance Corporation to 400 billion zloty ($20 million); government-backed and budget-subsidized low-interest export credits; tax relief for export-oriented investment and production; and improvement in customs controls. According to PAP, foreign trade minister Leslaw Podkanski said that implementation of the plan, which could raise exports by up to 10%, would require 4-4.5-trillion zloty ($200-225 million) in 1994. Exports have been dropping systematically over the past few years from 23.6% of Poland's GDP in 1990 to an estimated 16.2% in 1993. The trade deficit is expected to be about $2 billion. Podkanski said an increase in the rate of devaluation of the zloty would stimulate exports. -Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka GOVERNMENT-EPISCOPATE COMMISSION MEETS. The Joint Government-Episcopate Commission (founded in 1980) met in Warsaw for the first time since the 19-September elections. The meeting was cochaired by Deputy Premier Aleksander Luczak and Metropolitan Archbishop of Poznan Jerzy Stroba. Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak attended the first part of the meeting, which was devoted to issues arising from the Concordat that was negotiated and signed with the previous government. A joint communique issued after the meeting promised "broader examination of the legal consequences of its implementation" and emphasized the importance of ratification "for the good of the country and its international credibility." The government side expressed the hope that the Church "would continue to perform an educational role in public life," while the Church side approved government moves "continuing economic reform and protecting underprivileged social groups." Asked to comment on relations with the new government, Secretary General of the Episcopate, Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek, noted that the tone of the joint communique was "upbeat," PAP reported. -Anna Sabbat-Swidlicka AUSTRIAN PRESIDENT, SWEDISH DEFENSE MINISTER IN PRAGUE. Austrian President Thomas Klestil arrived in Prague on a two-day official visit on 6-December. He met with President Vaclav Havel and other officials. CTK reports that Havel told Klestil that the Czech Republic will go ahead with plans to complete the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Austrian border, despite Austrian protests. Havel said that many international experts have been consulted in connection with the plant's completion and that it will be as safe as any other modern nuclear power plant in Europe. In another development, Swedish Defense Minister Anders Bjoerck, who arrived in Prague on 6-December on a two-day visit, told the Czech media that Europe needs an integrated security structure that does not exclude certain countries. CTK quotes him as saying that he and Czech Defense Minister Antonin Baudys agreed that Europe cannot have two teams of countries: the A-team and the B-team. -Jiri Pehe KOVAC DISCUSSES MINORITY LAWS WITH SLOVAK PARTIES. On 6 December President Michal Kovac met with representatives of six parliamentary parties to discuss minority legislation that was recommended by the Council of Europe upon granting full membership to Slovakia in June. Concerning the issue of bilingual names of towns, which involves amending the law on the official language, there are two proposals. The cabinet's proposal suggests translating names of towns from Slovak to Hungarian language when more than 20% of the population is of a national minority, while the ethnic Hungarian parties propose the use of historical town names, setting the limit at 10%. According to Presidential spokesman Anton Bodis, the Office of the President has submitted a list of localities to the ethnic Hungarian parties. Bodis was quoted as saying that a translation will be used if the Slovak name can be translated; if not the historical name will be proposed. The parties also discussed the law on names and surnames, TASR reports. -Sharon Fisher MECIAR'S PARTY FALLS BEHIND. In a survey carried out by the group FOCUS from 22 to 29 November and released on 6 December, the Party of the Democratic Left came out ahead of Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Responding to the question of which party they would prefer if elections were held that weekend, 17.2% said they would not vote, 8.4% were undecided and 3.8% refused to answer. As for political parties, the PDL was on top with 13%, followed by the MDS with 12.9%, the Christian Democratic Movement with 10.2%, the Slovak National Party with 6.7%, the Green Party with 5.7%, the ethnic Hungarian Coexistence Movement with 4.2%, the Party of Businessmen with 3.9%, and the Democratic Party and Hungarian Christian Democratic Party, each with 2.8%. -Sharon Fisher HUNGARIAN SOCIALISTS WIN BY-ELECTION. Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP) candidate Karoly Hardonyi won the second round of a local council by-election in the large northeastern city of Miskolc, MTI reports. Last month's first round was declared invalid due to low voter turnout. Hardonyi got 33% of the vote followed by the candidates of the liberal party Alliance of Free Democrats (AFD), and the Christian Democratic People's Party, a member of the coalition government. The HSP has already scored successes in a series of local and parliamentary by-elections and has in the past few months been the second most popular party in Hungary after the Alliance of Young Democrats. HSP deputy chairman Gyorgy Janosi was confident that the HSP will do so well in the 1994 national elections that other parties will not be able to exclude it from the government. -Edith Oltay PROTESTS IN ROMANIA. Construction workers protested in Bucharest on 6 December (Saint Nicholas Day) by leaving old shoes on the front steps of the government's building. Under a Christian tradition, children leave their shoes on that day for Saint Nicholas to fill with presents. Radio Bucharest quoted a leader of the construction workers union as saying that he was convinced the "shoes will remain empty." In another development, students at the university in the eastern Romanian city of Iasi went on strike to protest new test requirements for graduation and poor living conditions; and six student organizations in Bucharest released a statement asking Nicolae Vacaroiu's minority left-wing cabinet to resign. Bucharest university students, the statement added, will join a protest rally to be staged on 8-December by the Alfa Trade Union Cartel, one of Romania's main labor organizations. Western agencies also reported that hundreds of people visited what is thought to be the grave of executed Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu on his name day. -Dan Ionescu BULGARIAN MINERS' STRIKE EXPANDS. Early on 7-December Bulgarian National Radio quoted Krastyu Petkov, chairman of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Bulgaria, as saying that 19,000 miners have joined a strike against the government's handling of the mining industry and its employees. The miners demand that all outstanding wages be paid out and that the cabinet works out a plan on reconstructing the mining industry. In negotiations with union officials in the previous week, industry minister Rumen Bikov agreed that miners could receive their back pay-in some cases five months overdue-by 25 December. But the compromise proposal was rejected both by the CITUB and Podkrepa, the second major trade union, the latter warning that it intended to join the strike on 13-December. The government says it lacks 540 million leva ($17.5 million) to be able to pay out overdue wages and has asked parliament to approve the issuing of treasury bonds or take credits worth 5 billion leva ($160-million) to cover the growing budget deficit. -Kjell Engelbrekt SHADOW CABINET SET UP IN UKRAINE. The leader of the influential union "New Ukraine," Volodymyr Hrynov, announced that he had joined forces with former prime minister Leonid Kuchma to form a shadow cabinet, Interfax reported on 6 December. In an interview he said that the government's recent measures on currency regulation would lead to the collapse of the financial system. In a decree issued in November, President Leonid Kravchuk suspended trading at the Kiev currency exchange and announced the setting up of a mechanism for establishing the official exchange rate of the karbovanets. A number of politicians believe these measures could lead to the restoration of a command economy. -Ustina Markus BELARUS ADOPTS ECONOMIC PROGRAM FOR 1994. According to the Journal of Commerce on 6-December, Belarus has adopted an economic program for 1994 in line with IMF demands. The main goal is to reduce the country's inflation from 30% to 10%. Its features include: limiting the increase in credit to 160%, compared with 372.3% this year; tying the national bank's basic interest rate, (which stands currently at 210% a year), to inflation; reducing state subsidies from 15% to 5% of GNP; removing subsidies on milk, dairy products and bread; reducing the value-added tax levied on basic manufactured products from 25% to 20%. The government also intends to privatize at least 50% of all state-owned enterprises, compared with the 5% privatized so far, and reduce barter transactions in foreign trade from the current 40%. The $275 million Belarus needs to buy Russian fuel this winter will be obtained by borrowing hard currency from domestic enterprises on a compulsory basis. -Ustina Markus MEETING OF BALTIC FOREIGN MINISTERS. On 6-December Trivimi Velliste, Georgs Andrejevs and Povilas Gylys, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, respectively, met in Tallinn and discussed ways of broadening cooperation and security questions, Baltfax reports. They adopted a joint declaration disapproving the proposal to grant Russia a peacemaking mandate in former Soviet territory. Velliste said that Latvia and Estonia were ready to accept under certain conditions the Russian offer to withdraw its troops by 31 August 1994. The ministers called upon the European Union to exercise control over dismantling the radar facility at Skrunda (Latvia); to assist in determining the economic damage to Estonia from the nuclear reactor at Paldiski; and to control Russian military cargo to and from the Kaliningrad region through Lithuania. -Saulius Girnius LATVIAN-RUSSIAN NEGOTIATIONS. On 6 December Russian and Latvian delegations began a three day round of talks that will focus on the Russian offer made in November to withdraw its troops from Latvia by 31 August 1994 if allowed to retain its radar facilities at Skrunda for six more years, BNS reports. Russia had earlier asked to retain the Skrunda facilities for ten years, the space surveillance station at Ventspils for six years, and the military port at Liepaja for five years. Latvian delegation head Martins Virsis said that he had brought "new constructive proposals," but did not disclose them. Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, who visited the Skrunda radar station on 4 December, told a press conference on 6 December that the terms for dismantling it should be determined at the summit level and that an international commission of experts should be formed to examine the health effects of the station. -Saulius Girnius INTRODUCTION OF MOLDOVAN CURRENCY LEADS TO PRICE RISES IN TRANSDNIESTRIA. The introduction of the new Moldovan national currency, the leu, and a mass demand for cash rubles in Transdniestria has led to sharp rises in prices for foodstuffs in Transdniestria, ITAR-TASS reported on 2-December. As a result, the Transdniestrian authorities have reduced subsidies and raised bread and milk prices five-fold and electricity prices three-fold. Transdniestria has categorically refused to recognize the leu and said it will stick with the ruble, and old rubles are flowing in, stoking inflation. -Ann Sheehy ALBANIAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY CONCLUDES CONFERENCE. Albania's ruling Democratic Party concluded its national conference on 5 December after two days of intense discussions. The opening session on 4 December included such guests as Ibrahim Rugova and Bujar Bukoshi, president and prime minister respectively of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo. Party Chairman Eduard Selami, a moderate, retained his post and the battle with the right appears over. A predicted split did not happen, although there are suggestions that one-time agricultural minister and hard-liner Petrit Kalakula will establish his own party. -Robert Austin [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Bess Brown and Dan Ionescu THE 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 North America: Mr. Brian Reed, RFE/RL, Inc., 1201 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC-20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 or -6907; Fax: (202) 457-6992 or 828-8783; Internet: RIDC@RFERL.ORG or Elsewhere: Ms. Helga Hofer, Publications Department, RFE/RL Research Institute, Oettingenstrasse 67, 80538 Munich, Germany;.Telephone: (+49 89) 2102-2631 or -2624; Fax: (+49 89) 2102-2648, Internet: PD@RFERL.ORG 1993, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
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