|The burnt child shuns the fire until the next day. - Mark Twain|
No. 3, 5 January 1994
RUSSIA RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT MOVES INTO OLD PARLIAMENT BUILDING. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and his deputies are the first government ministers to move into new offices in the renovated "White House"--the building occupied by the former Russian parliament until it was dissolved in early October. The chief of the government staff, Vladimir Kvasov, told Rossiiskaya gazeta of 4 January that President Yeltsin would also have offices in the "White House." The new parliament, the Federal Assembly, will meet in a split site; Kvasov said that since the Federal Assembly was not the legal successor to the old parliament, it had no right to the "White House," despite deputies' protests to the contrary. ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January that Orthodox Bishop Arsenii of Istra had blessed Chernomyrdin's offices; at the ceremony, icons were exchanged, and Chernomyrdin promised the return of 1,000 ancient icons to the Church. Wendy Slater, RFE/RL, Inc. NEWSPAPERS THREATEN TO STRIKE DURING SUMMIT. Editors of such major Russian newspapers as Izvestiya, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Komsomolskaya pravda, Moscow News and Segodnya are threatening to begin a strike on 10 January, AFP reported on 4 January. The purpose of the strike, which would coincide with the NATO summit, subsequent meetings between the US and Russian presidents, and the opening of the new Russian parliament, would be to protest against new Russian government regulations revaluing newspaper assets. Supposedly intended to prevent the privatization of state property at rock-bottom prices, the new regulations have caused sharp rises in property taxes and sent newspapers' production costs soaring. Elizabeth Teague, RFE/RL, Inc. IMF TEAM TO ADVISE ON SOCIAL SAFETY NET. A six-member team from the International Monetary Fund is due in Moscow at the end of this week to advise on the creation of a more effective social safety net and to explore ways of funding it, an RFE/RL Washington correspondent reported on 4 January, quoting IMF sources. The team will examine the newly available records of the main pension and social security funds: these had been controlled by the former Supreme Soviet and were not made available to the government or to external financial organizations. IMF officials report that they have no firm figures on the size of these extra-budgetary funds or their solvency. The IMF team is expected to recommend that transfer payments be more specifically targeted than has hitherto been the case. Robert Lyle & Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. DECREE ON PRIVATIZATION PUBLISHED. A presidential decree on the state privatization program, signed on 24 December, was published in the 4 January issue of Rossiiskaya gazeta, ITAR-TASS reported. The decree sets deadlines for changes in relevant tax laws, the publication of a list of state enterprises transformed into joint stock companies, and the preparation other draft legislation on privatization. The decree also invalidates some parliamentary resolutions on privatization thought to be inconsistent with the government's program. The Financial Times of 5 January reports that the decree specifies what enterprises are to be privatized and provides tax benefits for voucher investment funds. The government approved of the state privatization program "on the whole" on 19 December. Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL, Inc. GOVERNMENT OPTIMISTIC ON 1994 INFLATION. An inflation rate of 12 % was recorded in December -- the lowest monthly rate since September, 1992 -- the Center of Economic Trends reported in Interfax on 4 January. The Ministries of Finance and Economics are predicting that inflation will drop gradually over 1994 to a 5% monthly rate by December 1994 and total around 200% for the year. Erik Whitlock, RFE/RL, Inc. PERSONNEL CHANGES IN THE RUSSIAN MFA. Interfax reported on 4 January that three new deputy foreign ministers have been named in Russia, all of them former ambassadors. Igor Ivanov, who was in Spain, has become first deputy foreign minister; Albert Chernyshov, who was in Turkey, has become deputy foreign minister; and Aleksandr Panov, who was in South Korea, will take the deputy foreign minister position vacated by Georgii Kunadze. For his part, Kunadze will take the ambassadorial posting in Seoul. There is some speculation that another first deputy foreign minister will be appointed to bring the total up to two, which is considered the norm in Moscow, although it has not been observed since the collapse of the USSR. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. US OFFICIALS CONCERNED ABOUT RUSSIAN BEHAVIOR. An article by Paul Quinn-Judge in the Boston Globe on 5 January says that US government analysts believe "the highest levels of Russian government, including President Boris Yeltsin, are backing the use of military pressure against former Soviet republics," in an effort to destabilize and reassert influence in this area. This has raised concerns among top US officials about Russia's willingess to allow those states to develop independently. At the same time, US officials do not have reason to expect that members of the US administration traveling to Moscow for the 12-15 January summit will raise the issue with Yeltsin. According to officials cited anonymously in the report, there is circumstantial evidence that Yeltsin either endorsed or turned a blind eye to Russian military intervention in Abkhazia. If neither of these interpretations is correct, alternative explanations may be even more problematic. As the article notes, such alternative interpretations would include either that Yeltsin has been unaware of Russia's military involvement or that Yeltsin knew about it, opposed it, and was unable to block it. Suzanne Crow, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIAN-CHINESE CROSS-BORDER TRADE ZONE PROPOSED. The Russian city of Blagoveshchensk and the Chinese city of Heilongjiang have agreed to set up a cross-border free trade zone, Xinhua and Reuters reported on 4 January. The zone, administered by a joint commission, would take in 10 square kilometers in each city. Within these boundaries, goods and currencies could circulate and be freely exchanged. The agreement must be ratified by the Russian and Chinese governments. According to a statement in December from the Russian embassy in Beijing, a precondition will be the construction by the Chinese authorities of a permanent bridge over the Amur River--which flows between the two cities--rather than the pontoon bridge currently envisaged. Keith Bush, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA, TURKEY SIGN PROTOCOL ON ECONOMIC COOPERATION. Russian and Turkish officials signed a protocol on economic cooperation in Ankara on 30 December embracing the fields of energy, transport and communications and construction, ITAR-TASS reported. The preceding talks covered cooperation in the field of satellite communications and defense conversion. A separate agreement covers the purchase by Turkey in 1994 of 1.5 million tons of Russian crude oil at less than world market prices, according to Anatolia News Agency of 26 December quoting the head of the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Refinery Company. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. MAFIA PENETRATION OF BUSINESS. There is no single consolidated center of criminal activity in Russia, but the organized crime networks have already learnt how to coordinate their actions at regional level, according to Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Mikhail Egorov as quoted by ITAR-TASS on 4 January. Speaking at an international conference "For Fair Business," Egorov said that the criminal community currently controls up to 40,000 state and private enterprises, in which it is laundering the capital derived from illegal drug trafficking, weapon sales, unlawful bank operations and illicit car dealing. Egorov, who also heads the criminal police, stated that his agency has registered up to 600-700 cases of racketeering, 10-15 cases of hostage-taking and from 30 to 35 armed clashes between criminal gangs each month. According to Egorov, one possible means of combatting the crime wave would be consolidation of the efforts of private security services and the MVD. Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. DZASOKHOV WITHDRAWS FROM NORTH OSSETIAN PRESIDENTIAL RACE. Aleksandr Dzasokhov, a former secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, said on North Ossetian television on 2 January that he was withdrawing his candidacy from the North Ossetian presidential race "in the interests of the further consolidation of society," ITAR-TASS reported. This leaves six candidates still running in the presidential elections, which are to be held on 16 January. Dzasokhov was elected to the Russian State Duma from North Ossetia on a non-Party ticket. Ann Sheehy, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASUS & CENTRAL ASIA TAJIKISTAN ADOPTS NEW RUSSIAN RUBLE. On 4 January Tajik Television broadcast a decree of Supreme Soviet Chairman and head of state Imomali Rakhmonov ordering that as of 8 January, new Russian rubles will be the only legal currency in Tajikistan, Western news agencies reported. Small-denomination pre-1993 currency will also remain in circulation. The decree is in accord with an agreement reached in Moscow in November that subordinated Tajikistan's finances to those of the Russian Republic. In return for control of much of Tajikistan's budget, Moscow undertook to prop up the Central Asian country's failing economy. The television announcement said that citizens would not be able to exchange old rubles for new for the time being, and were urged to deposit their savings in state banks. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. KILLINGS OF RUSSIANS IN TAJIKISTAN. Nine Russian Baptists and a Russian Orthodox priest were murdered in the Dushanbe area in the last two days of 1993 and Tajik authorities are being very sparing with information about the crimes, ITAR-TASS reported on 4 January. The priest was killed soon after he conducted a religious service for members of the Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division, which forms the core of the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan. Neighbors of the murdered Baptists told ITAR-TASS that they questioned the official version according to which the deaths were connected with a robbery; according the neighbors, nothing valuable was stolen. Tajik official reticence to discuss the recent killings may be motivated by fear of further frightening the Russian inhabitants of the country and provoking even greater Russian interference in Tajikistan's internal affairs. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. IRAN TO RESUME KARABAKH MEDIATION. Iran is to undertake a new attempt to mediate a settlement of the Karabakh conflict at the request of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaderships, according to AFP of 4 January citing an interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati in Resalat. Two Iranian-brokered ceasefires in Nagorno-Karabakh in the spring of 1992 were violated almost before the ink had dried. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE LITHUANIA ASKS TO JOIN NATO. On 4 January President Algirdas Brazauskas announced on national television that he had sent a formal request for membership in NATO to that organization's Secretary General Manfred Woerner, Reuters reports. Brazauskas said that "Lithuania positively evaluates the Partnership for Peace initiative," and its prospects for NATO membership should become clearer after his visit to Brussels on 27 January. NATO officials confirmed receipt of the letter and said the application would be considered in due course. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. LITHUANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON NATO. Povilas Gylys announced on 4 January that he had sent a letter to US Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, expressing the desire for closer cooperation in the fields of national security and defense, as well the need for greater US economic investment in Lithuania, Radio Lithuania reports. Gylys pointed out that, although Russian troops had withdrawn from Lithuania, it was still in a security vacuum. He described the presence of Russian troops in Latvia and Estonia and their concentration in Kaliningrad as destabilizing factors, and Russia's treatment of the Baltic States as part of the "near abroad" as unacceptable. Lithuania considers NATO a future guarantee for its security and hopes that the Partnership for Peace initiative might lead "from partnership to membership." Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. WALESA ASSAILS WESTERN "SNOBBISM." In an interview with BBC television on 4 January, Polish President Lech Walesa accused the West of "desertion" in backing away from NATO membership for the new democracies of Eastern Europe. Walesa argued that Russian President Boris Yeltsin had sensed "the indecision and egoism of the West" and retracted his assent to NATO's expansion. Comparing the current situation to 1939, he charged the West with failing to heed the lessons of history. In an attempt to counter such apprehension, the US dispatched Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. John Shalikashvili and UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright on a persuasion mission to Warsaw, Bratislava, Budapest, and Prague in advance of the upcoming NATO summit. Shalikashvili and Albright arrive in Warsaw on 7 January, PAP reports. In comments to the press on 4 January, Shalikashvili defended the Partnership for Peace plan, arguing that enthusiastic participation could eventually open the way to "serious talks" with NATO. Asked about Walesa's criticism, Shalikashvili suggested that expanding NATO rapidly would create destructive new divisions in Europe. PAP reports that the four Visegrad defense ministers are scheduled to meet in Warsaw on 7 January in advance of the NATO summit and reportedly plan to issue a joint communiqu. Media reports have hinted at disunity among the Visegrad four; there has been speculation that the Czech government will try to give the Prague talks a bilateral focus, rather than negotiate in tandem with the other three Visegrad partners. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. HUNGARIAN DEFENSE MINISTER ON NATO MEMBERSHIP. Asked by Hungarian Television on 4 January to comment on reports that US President Bill Clinton had allegedly said Hungary and the other CEE nations should not consider NATO as a future partner, Defense Minister Lajos Fur said that such reports reflected a temporary stage of the debate in the US. Sooner or later, he said, "the countries belonging to NATO must realize that it is impossible to create general European security without guaranteeing the security of Central and Eastern Europe." Foreign Ministry Spokesman Janos Herman said that Hungary accepts the US sponsored Partnership for Peace program and "strives to fill it with real content." Judith Pataki, RFE/RL, Inc. MASSIVE SECURITY FOR CLINTON IN PRAGUE. About 3,000 Czech security personnel will be deployed in Prague during the visit of US President Bill Clinton on 11 and 12 January, CTK reported on 4 January. According to Interior Ministry spokesman Jan Subert, more than 200 American security men will be responsible for protecting Clinton alone. Subert said the security plan includes helicopter patrols and divers in the Vltava River if Clinton decides to cross the historic Charles Bridge in the heart of the Old Town. CTK also reports that some 735 rooms have been reserved for the American delegation in the 800-room Atrium hotel. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. BOSNIA DEVELOPMENTS. On 4 January Croatian foreign minister Mate Granic and Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic met in Vienna to discuss outstanding differences. International media report that both leaders described their 5-hour long talks as constructive, and promised to meet again on 5 January. Silajdzic told reporters that he and Granic had agreed that the city of Mostar should be placed under international control, and expressed hope that agreement on other outstanding questions might be reached. According to Slobodna Dalmacija of 5 January, Silajdzic dismissed recent Croatian fears that the Bosnian government has designs to force Croats out of central Bosnia by observing that "Croats live there [central Bosnia] and must and shall continue to live there." He also attempted to minimize recent Croatian government threats of armed intervention against Muslim forces by describing them as "unfortunate diplomatic excursions." European Union mediator Lord Owen, speaking to the BBC on 4 January, just before his arrival in Vienna, observed that international troops based in Bosnia could be withdrawn in spring if the warring parties continue to demonstrate the lack of a genuine commitment to peace. Also, on 4 January international media reported that the UN commander in Bosnia, Lt. Gen. Francis Briquemont, who has been critical of the UN presence in Bosnia, has resigned. Briquemont cited only personal reasons as leading to his decision. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. MILOSEVIC SUGGESTS 1994 MAY BE A YEAR OF PROMISE. On 4 January Politika reported Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's New Year message to the public. Milosevic stressed that 1994 could be the year that brings peace to the former Yugoslavia, and pledged that his policies, aimed at such objectives as lowering inflation, would be tailored to tackle the tough economic problems facing average citizens. Developments early in the new year suggest that the president's commitment to economic renewal may shortly be put to the test. On 4 January Belgrade Radio reported that the staff of a suburban hospital is planning to resume a strike suspended only for the holiday season. Meanwhile, Tanjug reports that striking coal miners in Kolubara, whose work stoppage caused power shortages throughout Serbia during the last week of 1993, may be arrested and tried for sabotage. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. CETIN AND DEMIREL ON TURKISH BALKAN POLICY. Foreign Minister Hikmet Cetin, assessing foreign policy developments in 1993 and making projections for 1994, said that "Ankara has enhanced its relations in the Balkans." He added that "through the Balkans we are connected to Europe, through the Caucasus to Central Asia, and through the Black Sea to Russia and Ukraine," the Turkish Daily News reported on 1 January. Nonetheless, Cetin complained about continued Greek obstruction in relations between Turkey and the European Union, and called for a solution to the Greek veto problem. The daily suggested "that Ankara was satisfied with seeing Greece alienate itself internationally through its behavior." Western agencies reported that Turkish President Suleyman Demirel sent letters to various heads of state and government following his meeting with Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic on 29 December. Demirel urged that "all the participants at the Geneva peace talks adopt a determined attitude against the Serbian and Croatian side" and emphasized that, should the Geneva talks end with nothing having been resolved, there would be no argument left to support the arms embargo on Bosnia-Hercegovina. Demirel also called for a more active role by the Islamic world in the Bosnian crisis. Fabian Schmid, RFE/RL, Inc. GREEK PRESIDENCY TO FOCUS ON RESOLVING BOSNIA CRISIS. A French daily on 4 December quoted Greek European Affairs Minister Theodoros Pangalos as saying that finding a solution to the conflict in Bosnia will be Greece's chief priority during its 6-month presidency of the European Union. Pangalos told Ouest-France that if the Bosnian crisis is not resolved by springtime, the belligerents might launch new military operations. He also promised that the Greek presidency will try to encourage a common Balkan and European approach to the problem and not "do what Greece [fundamentally] wants to do," that is, pursue Athen's traditional pro-Serbian stance. While Panagalos again deplored the 1991 recognition of Bosnia by EU states, which he said had worsened the situation, he rejected the idea that Athens might use its presidency to seek a reversal of last month's recognition of Macedonia by most EU states. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK BANK TO PAY DEBT TO CZECHS. On 4 January Slovak National Bank spokesman Juraj Matejovsky told CTK that Slovakia will repay the money owed to the Czech Republic according to the payments clearing agreement in effect since February 1993. As of 31 December 1993, Slovakia had exceeded the credit limit of 130 million ecu by 39 million ecu. Matejovsky said this amount will be repaid by 15 January. NBS Vice Governor Marian Jusko said on 3 January that the bank had tried to stop this development in December by devaluing the Slovak koruna by 5% in relation to the Czech koruna, the maximum devaluation allowed by the agreement. Jusko noted that Slovakia had a positive trade balance with the Czech Republic until August 1993 partly because Slovak companies had savings in Czech banks. This money was later exhausted, Jusko said, and a negative trade balance developed. Slovak Deputy Premier Sergej Kozlik told TASR on 4 January that creating a strong export policy is one of his economic priorities. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. KLAUS ON BUDGET, GDP. Speaking to journalists in Prague on 4 January, Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said that the Czech Republic's budget in 1993 ended with a 500 million koruny ($17.2 million) surplus. According to Klaus, budgetary receipts were 357 billion koruny, which is about 3 billion more than had been expected. A balanced budget has been approved for 1994. Klaus also said preliminary GDP estimates showed zero growth in 1993; 2% growth is expected in 1994. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECHS INTRODUCE VISAS FOR SOME TRAVELERS. The Czech Foreign Ministry announced on 4 January that as of January 15 travelers from parts of former Yugoslavia and four former Soviet republics will need visas to enter the Czech Republic. The affected countries are Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Tajikistan. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN RULING PARTY ON COALITION. The executive president of the ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania, Adrian Nastase, said at a press conference on 4 January that his party continues to be open to dialogue with the opposition in view of setting up a new governmental coalition, but that the opposition shows obstinacy and lack of good will. According to Radio Bucharest, Nastase said his party is considering moving into opposition: developments elsewhere showed that a brief respite from government might be of advantage. New elections would probably solve nothing and end in the same hung legislature, but the PSDR, he said, does not reject any possibility. According to Reuters, Nastase disagreed with the demand of the Democratic Party--National Salvation Front that extremist political formations be left out of a future coalition. The "so-called extremist parties," he said, have a right to participate because people voted for them. Nastase also accused former king Michael of trying to interfere in Romania's political life and called for steps against the former monarch. In November Nastase said his party would draft a law barring Michael from returning to Romania for the next 15 years. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIA FAILS TO FULFILL PRIVATIZATION PLAN. Daniel Branzan, a spokesman for the State Ownership Fund, told Reuters' Bucharest correspondent on 4 January that Romania has failed to fulfill its 1993 privatization plan. Only 244 state-owned small and medium-sized companies, less than half of the planned 550 companies, passed into private hands last year. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION SETS STRIKE DATE. Bogdan Hossu, president of the Alfa trade union confederation, one of Romania's three large labor unions, told an RFE/RL correspondent in Bucharest on 4 January that his union will hold a nationwide strike on 3 February. Hossu's announcement is the first firm date set for the labor protest announced by all three labor confederations last month. The unions demand the resignation of the government and formation of a national unity government. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. LITHUANIAN-RUSSIAN TALKS ON EMBASSY BUILDINGS. On 4 January Lithuanian Deputy Foreign Minister Albinas Januska held talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart, Boris Pastukhov, on the return of buildings in Paris and Rome now used by Russia that had served as Lithuania's embassies before World War II, BNS reports. The talks, described as "constructive and positive" by a press release of the Lithuanian embassy in Moscow, mark the first time that Russia considered returning the buildings. The meeting also discussed Russia's desire to get better facilities for its embassy in Vilnius. Januska also met with another Russian counterpart, Sergei Krylov, and discussed Lithuanian-Russian relations, particularly problems related to Kaliningrad. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. BALTIC BATTALION ENVISAGED. During his visit to Riga, Danish Defense Minister Hans Haekkerup told Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Birkavs that he appreciates the idea of establishing a Baltic peacekeeping battalion. He said that "the formation of this battalion is a suitable start for the integration of the Baltic States into NATO," BNS reported on 4 January. The idea of creating a Baltic battalion was formally endorsed by the chiefs of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian defense forces at their meeting in Tallinn on 20 November 1993. They agreed that the 650-men peacekeeping unit, whose working language would be English, would be placed at the disposal of the UN, and would be used in operations outside the former Soviet Union. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. LATVIAN PRESIDENT CONCERNED ABOUT YELTSIN'S NEW YEAR SPEECH. Diena reported on 3 January that Latvian president Guntis Ulmanis was "more embittered than pleased" about the content and tone of Russian president Boris Yeltsin's New Year address. Ulmanis, according to his press secretary Anta Busa, was particularly concerned about Yeltsin's reiteration of Russia's intention to defend the rights of Russians living outside their homeland and his failure to confirm the complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the Baltic States in 1994. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. NON-CITIZENS IN ESTONIA, LATVIA MAY USE SOVIET PASSPORTS. Baltic media reported on 30 December 1993 and 3 January 1994 that in 1994 both Estonia and Latvia will continue to register and recognize Soviet foreign passports of foreigners residing in those countries. In Estonia a registered Soviet passport remains valid until 12 July 1995 or until the person's residence permit expires. In Latvia, where a law on aliens has not yet been promulgated, foreign passports of the former USSR will continue to be issued in 1994 to residents who are not Latvian citizens. For travel abroad, Latvian citizens will have to obtain a Latvian passport. Through December 1993, about 520,000 Latvian passports were issued to the approximately 1,720,000 citizens of Latvia, according to Latvian Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesman Janis Vidzups. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. KRAVCHUK'S NEW YEAR ADDRESS. In his New Year address on Ukrainian TV, President Leonid Kravchuk described 1993 as a very difficult year for his country. Despite the absence of any "serious successes" in economic and political reform, "peace, bread and democracy" had been safeguarded. Kravchuk noted that important measures had been taken by the government at the end of the year to stabilize the economic situation, and he called for a referendum to decide Ukraine's political system and break the political deadlock resulting from the lack of a clear division of powers. Kravchuk said that "acute political issues" connected with nuclear weapons, the Black Sea Fleet and relations with Russia needed to be resolved in 1994. He expressed the hope that Russia, too,would have enough "wisdom and goodwill" to ensure "normal, goodneighborly relations" between Ukraine and Russia. Bohdan Nahaylo, RFE/RL, Inc. NOTICE The RFE/RL Daily Report will not appear Thursday, 6 January [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Elizabeth Fuller & Anna Swidlicka
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