|We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us. - George Eliot|
No. 7, 12 January 1994
RUSSIA CHAOTIC OPENING SESSION OF STATE DUMA. The first session of the lower house of Russia's new parliament on 11 January saw chaotic scenes as deputies argued over points of procedure, Western and Russian agencies reported. Following a speech by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, on behalf of President Yeltsin, in which he said that the government had prepared 100 bills to be submitted to the Duma, the 430 deputies present spent the day deciding on the minimum number of deputies required to register as an official group. Russia's Choice blocked attempts by the Liberal Democrats and Communists to set the minimum at 50, saying that 20 deputies was a more suitable number. Repeated votes reached a compromise figure of 35. The argument was relevant only to the large number of independent deputies in the Duma; the smallest party faction stands at the 14 deputies who were elected from the Democratic Party of Russia's party list. Wendy Slater CHERNOMYRDIN CALLS FOR NEW REFORM PHASE. In his address before parliament carried by Russian television on 11 January, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin said that the "preconditions had emerged for the transition to a new stage in economic reform." Chernomyrdin announced that the focus of government's activity would now shift toward creating "favorable work conditions" for Russian goods producers and social policy. He noted that changes to follow from Yeltsin's decree on the structure of the government (issued 10 January) would improve its policy-making. Claiming that the majority of the measures that the government would now undertake were included in the pre-election programs of many of the parties and blocs, the prime minister concluded that there was a real basis for cooperation between the government and parliament. Erik Whitlock DISPUTE OVER SPEAKER OF DUMA. Since the negotiations to elect a speaker prior to the opening of the Duma had failed, the first session was chaired by the oldest deputy present, Georgii Lukava of the LDP. Western newspapers reported that he lost control of proceedings, and that deputies crowded onto the podium demanding that he be replaced. It was finally agreed that the sessions would be chaired in rotation by the 3 oldest deputies: Lukava, Vladimir Bokov of the CP-RF, and Sergei Kovalev of Russia's Choice, ITAR-TASS reported. The Duma also elected ex-presidential aide Sergei Stankevich of the Party of Russian Unity and Concord to chair an interim 20-member secretariat. This will consist of five commissions and will deal with procedural matters. The Duma went into recess, on the suggestion of PRUC chairman Sergei Shakhrai, and will resume on 13 January. Wendy Slater FEDERATION COUNCIL'S FIRST SESSION. In contrast to the confusion in the State Duma, the first session of the Federation Council (the upper house of the new parliament) was calm, Western agencies reported. In his opening speech to the deputies, who represent Russia's regions and republics, President Yeltsin called for cooperation between the executive and the legislative branches of power. The deputies spent the day holding a secret ballot for the nomination of a chairman. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko led the nominations with 78 of the 161 votes; he was followed by a Krasnoyarsk factory director Petr Romanov (13 votes); Sverdlovsk leader Eduard Rossel (10); and former industry minister Aleksandr Titkin (6), according to ITAR-TASS. The final vote is to take place on 12 January; to be elected speaker, a candidate needs an absolute majority of votes. Shumeiko told Interfax that he will resign his government post if he is elected speaker. Wendy Slater YELTSIN: RUSSIA "FIRST AMONG EQUALS" IN COMMONWEALTH. In his speech to the Federation Council on 11 January, Yeltsin dwelt at length on Russia's relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States, stressing that Russia is "a great power" called upon to play the role of "first among equals" as regards the other former Soviet republics. "Our countries are growing closer together," Yeltsin asserted. "Each understands more and more clearly that alone it cannot cope with or survive the difficult problems it faces." Yeltsin's speech was reported in Rossiiskaya gazeta on 12 January. ¥ Elizabeth Teague CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGE ON HUNGER STRIKE. Viktor Luchin, a Constitutional Court judge, has gone on hunger strike to protest the failure of the court's judges to come to a decision on his position, Luchin's legal counsel Mikhail Moiseenko told Interfax on 11 January. Luchin was suspended from the court, together with its former chairman Valerii Zorkin, on 1 December 1993, because of his alleged political activity. Luchin is accused of having participated in communist party congresses and in the election campaign. However, he withdrew his candidacy from the Agrarian party on 15 November, according to Moiseenko. Zorkin is reported to disapprove of Luchin's action. ¥ Wendy Slater ZHIRINOVSKY INTERVIEWED BY ISRAELI NEWSPAPER. In an interview published in the Israeli newspaper Maariv on 11 January, Vladimir Zhirinovsky asserted that he had never hidden the fact that his father was Jewish, AFP reported that day. "I am proud of my father, my mother, and my motherland Russia," Zhirinovsky stated. Elizabeth Teague SOBCHAK ALLEGES ZHIRINOVSKY HAS KGB LINKS. St. Petersburg Mayor Anatolii Sobchak has alleged that Vladimir Zhirinovsky holds the rank of captain in the KGB active reserve and that the Liberal Democratic Party he heads was created by the former KGB on the orders of the Politburo. In an interview with the St. Petersburg weekly Chas pik (No. 1, 1994) Sobchak said Mikhail Gorbachev told him in 1990 that the Politburo had decided to set up a number of front political parties in order to create a "directed" multi-party system and compromise any truly democratic or liberal parties that might emerge in the future. According to Sobchak, Gorbachev instructed the KGB to find suitable "leaders" for such parties and Zhirinovsky was one of those selected. Sobchak, who was a member of Gorbachev's Presidential Council, offered no explanation in the Chas pik interview as to why he failed to publicize this information during the recent election campaign or even earlier. Victor Yasmann GRAIN IMPORTS DOWN. In 1993, 10.4 million tons of grain were imported via the Eksportkhleb trading organization, Interfax reported on 6 January. This was the lowest total for many years, and was attributed to fairly good domestic harvests in 1992 and 1993, and to the shortage of hard currency. An even lower import total is expected for 1994. Keith Bush CIS IS THERE A DEAL OR NOT? At a meeting with the press, on 11 January a spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that no final agreement on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine had yet been reached. According to a recording of his remarks broadcast by Radio Ukraine, the spokesman said that details of the security guarantees had yet to be settled. He noted that if all outstanding issues were resolved at the trilateral meeting on 14 January, that a "document" could be issued, otherwise the meeting would have a "consultative nature." He observed that it "at this stage it is better to speak about a document rather than an agreement or treaty." Interfax on 11 January reported that the spokesman confirmed that any international agreement would be subject to ratification by parliament. On the same day a "high ranking official" in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax that "it is essential that in Moscow Ukraine indicate the exact date when no nuclear weapons will be left on its soil." The Russian statement conflicts with earlier Western press reports indicating that no deadline will be specified in the agreement because of Ukrainian resistance. However, the Los Angeles Times of 12 January reports that Clinton and Kravchuk will discuss a deadline for dismantling during their meeting on 12 January. It therefore appears that the deal is not finalized, although pressure on all sides to reach an agreement is undoubtedly high. John Lepingwell STILL NO CONFIRMATION OF NUCLEAR AGREEMENT IN UKRAINE. There has still been no formal confirmation in Ukraine that a trilateral nuclear agreement has indeed been made. According to the head of the secretariat of the Rukh democratic opposition party, Mykhailo Boichyshyn, however, on 10 January President Kravchuk acknowledged that an "agreement has already been signed" during celebrations of his 60th birthday, Ukrainian TV's independent Channel 7 reported on the evening of 11 January in the UNIAR newscast. Boichyshyn also said that legislators had still not been informed of the details of the deal. Noting that Kravchuk's signature on any nuclear accord would have no judicial force, Rukh's leader Vyacheslav Chornovil and other lawmakers are continuing to point out that agreements signed by the Ukrainian president become valid only after they are ratified by parliament. Meanwhile, on 11 January President Clinton phoned Kravchuk to thank him for his courage in negotiating an agreement on nuclear arms, Western media reported. ¥ Bohdan Nahaylo TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA ABKHAZ-GEORGIAN TALKS IN GENEVA. The second round of UN-sponsored negotiations on a political settlement of the Abkhaz conflict opened on 10 January in Geneva. The main subjects of discussion will be the return to their homes of some 200,000 Georgian refugees who fled last year's fighting, which Georgia claims is being hindered by Abkhaz troops, and the future political status of Abkhazia. In an interview with ITAR-TASS UN mediator Edouard Brunner said that while Georgia insists on preserving its territorial integrity but is prepared to offer Abkhazia autonomy, Abkhazia demands either total independence or a federal agreement with Georgia. Liz Fuller MKHEDRIONI TO DISARM? Members of the Mkhedrioni paramilitary formation have agreed voluntarily to surrender their arms by 15 January, according to ITAR-TASS. Any member who refuses to comply will be turned over to the law enforcement organs. The rationale cited for the move was to preclude further accusations that Mkhedrioni members have committed armed robberies and muggings. Originally founded as a civil defense-type unit, Mkhedrioni has been implicated both in reprisals against the civilian population and in illicit narcotics dealing and running the black-market in gasoline. Liz Fuller UZBEKISTAN AND KAZAKHSTAN TO FORM ECONOMIC UNION. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have agreed to abolish customs tariffs on trade between the two countries and to create a common market by 2000, the presidents of both states told reporters in Tashkent on 10 January, Reuters reported on 11 January. According to the two, the agreement provides for free movement of goods, services, capital and labor between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and coordination of fiscal and customs policies. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev described the agreement as abolishing borders between the two countries. Bess Brown CENTRAL ASIAN PRESIDENTS SET UP ARAL SEA FUND. The heads of state of the five Central Asian countries met in Nukus, capital of Karakalpakistan, on 11 January to sign an agreement on the creation of a fund to save the Aral Sea and a three- to five-year program designed to improve the environmental situation in the Aral Basin, Interfax reported. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the countries most affected by the desiccation of the Aral Sea, have tried to attract international attention to the problem and assistance in dealing with it by warning that the destruction of the Aral poses a threat to the world's climate. Foreign observers have complained that Central Asian projects center on mitigating the immediate effects of the catastrophe rather than on long-term plans for restoration of the sea. Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE CLINTON ARRIVES IN PRAGUE. On 11 January President Bill Clinton arrived in Prague, where he is to hold talks with the leaders of the Visegrad countries (Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic) on 12 January. International media report that on the 11th, Clinton met with Czech President Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus to discuss Czech-American cooperation and NATO's Partnership for Peace plan. Clinton's meeting with Havel was followed by discussions among other high-ranking US and Czech officials. Speaking to the media after his meeting with Clinton, Havel welcomed the Partnership for Peace plan, describing it as "good and fair." He said that it was "an open door for all, with each choosing their own speed to go through it." Clinton said that it was possible that some countries may be able to enter NATO earlier than others after joining the Partnership for Peace initiative. Later, Clinton was shown the sights of Prague by Havel, and both presidents visited a Prague pub, where Clinton spent an hour chatting with an elderly Czech couple who were his hosts in 1970. Clinton also went to a Prague jazz club and accepted an invitation to play the saxophone. Jiri Pehe SLOVAK DELEGATION LEAVES FOR PRAGUE. On 11 January the Slovak delegation headed by President Michal Kovac left for Prague to meet with Clinton and the heads of the other Visegrad countries, TASR reports. Other delegation members include Premier Vladimir Meciar, Foreign Minister Jozef Moravcik, Deputy Premiers Jozef Prokes, Sergej Kozlik and Julius Toth, Economy Minister Jan Ducky, Health Minister Irena Belohorska and Defense Minister Imrich Andrejcak, as well as ambassador to the Czech Republic Ivan Mjartan and designated ambassador to the US Branislav Lichardus. In an 11 January press conference, Moravcik announced that the cabinet unambiguously supports the Partnership for Peace initiative. Sharon Fisher WALESA: "PAPER GUARANTEES ARE WORTHLESS." Interviewed by Polish TV before his departure for Prague, President Lech Walesa once again expressed his dissatisfaction with the Partnership for Peace proposal. Poland has no choice but to accept what has been offered, however, he said. Predicting that his talks with Clinton will be "difficult," Walesa vowed to press for more ambitious measures to reduce the "terrain of uncertainty" in Central Europe. Poland will continue to press for full integration into European structures, he said, because "paper guarantees of security are worthless." Walesa argued that his "propaganda offensive" in advance of the NATO summit had been successful, in that it alerted Western public opinion to the security needs of the region and forestalled an even less satisfactory outcome. Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski was more sanguine, arguing that the partnership plan will in fact improve Poland's security by putting some of NATO's military facilities at its disposal. Olechowski expressed disappointment at the breakdown of cooperation among the Visegrad four, however. Continuing his verbal sparring match with Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus over Prague's decision to negotiate independent of its Visegrad partners, Walesa said "the Czechs would go along even if Brussels offered them membership in the Soviet Union," Polish TV reports. ¥ Louisa Vinton HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE PLAN. On 11 January Geza Jeszenszky told a press conference that the Partnership for Peace plan offered East European countries a direct road to full NATO membership, and pledged that Hungary will take advantage of the opportunities the plan offered, MTI reports. He said that the plan offered an "appropriate perspective" to East European countries which had to go through a long evolutionary process to attain full NATO membership. Jeszenszky encouraged the Visegrad countries to launch separate "diplomatic offensives" to attain their common goal of full NATO membership arguing that such approach has proven more effective than joint declarations. Edith Oltay ILIESCU HAILS NATO PLAN. In a statement read on Radio Bucharest on 11 January, Romanian President Ion Iliescu praised NATO's plan. Iliescu called the Brussels decision "historic," and said it would help Romania and other former communist countries in Eastern Europe consolidate their national security. He added that Romania was "ready to assume all responsibilities" to join in the plan and the NATO alliance in the future. In separate comments, Petre Roman, a former prime minister and chairman of the opposition Democratic Party--National Salvation Front, described this week's NATO decisions as "disappointing" and appealed to the Western world "not to block the way for [Romania's closer] cooperation" with NATO. Dan Ionescu UKRAINE WELCOMES PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE ARRANGEMENT. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement welcoming the plan adopted at the NATO summit in Brussels, Ukrainian Radio reported on 11 January. Praising the scheme for not creating "new lines of division in Europe," it describes it as "an instrument for the evolutionary broadening of the [NATO] alliance eastward." It calls the arrangement a "timely and promising step in the right direction" which provides "all interested countries" with the opportunity to begin developing "political and military cooperation with NATO." Ukraine, it asserts, "has great interest in the development of such cooperation" and intends, through its "active participation" to contribute to this process. ¥ Bohdan Nahaylo BALTIC RESPONSE TO PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE. On 11 January Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas instructed the government to start "immediate preparation" to sign a partnership document with NATO, BNS reports. In a statement issued by the Lithuanian embassy in Brussels, Brazauskas said that partnership "paves the way to the full integration of Lithuania into NATO political-military structures." At a press conference in Tallinn, Prime Minister Mart Laar said that Estonia was interested in the plan and would prepare and submit to NATO its formal position within the next few days. Estonian membership in NATO was also discussed at the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission. It then approved in a 6-2-1 vote a draft resolution to parliament asking Estonian President Lennart Meri to write a formal application for NATO membership. ¥ Saulius Girnius LATVIAN-RUSSIAN TALKS RESUME. After apologies to Russia by the Latvian prime minister and foreign minister for the detentions and subsequent release of two Russian generals by local Latvian officials, the Latvian-Russian talks resumed at 10 am on 11 January. The principal topic of discussions was the Skrunda radar site, which Russia has claimed as being essential for its security. The Russian delegation proposed shortening Moscow's jurisdiction over the radar from six to five years. Diena reported on 11 January that the Latvian side is formulating its response; previously it had indicated willingness to consider three years if Russia met other conditions regarding the withdrawal of its forces from Latvia by 31 August 1994. Diena also reported that Riga's Vidzeme district chairman, Andrejs Rucs, who ordered the detention of the Russian generals, had been dismissed from office and the city's Mayor Andris Teikmanis would assume the duties of running the Vidzeme district until new elections are held there. The Latvian state prosecutor's office said that it has been unable to interrogate Rucs since he has managed to elude police surveillance and his whereabouts are not known. Dzintra Bungs NATO WARNS BOSNIAN SERBS. International media reported on 11 January that the summit of the Atlantic alliance voted to warn Serbs of possible air strikes unless they permit the reopening of Tuzla airport, allow a change of UN peace-keeping units in Srebrenica, and end the siege of Sarajevo. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic dismissed the measure and added that NATO is jeopardizing the Bosnian peace process by challenging the Serbs. The BBC quoted Bosnian Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic, who has previously threatened to bomb London, as warning NATO that it could be starting "World War III." Meanwhile, his forces have intensified their shelling of Sarajevo. Patrick Moore LEADER OF MACEDONIAN ALBANIAN PARTY RESIGNS. In an interview given to Rilindja on 10 January, Dr. Zydi Bilalli, a member of the executive committee of the Party for Democratic Prosperity, explained his departure as being the result of discontent over current party policies. "With these policies we cannot improve our constitutional and legal status," Bilalli said, adding that the only gain the Albanians had made within the last three years is that they "can sing (...) and speak freely" now. He was referring to the fact that the Macedonian constitution defines Macedonia as a state of all it's citizens, while the Albanian hard-liners want Albanians to be explicitly named as having a status of "people of the state" co-equal with the Macedonians. Bilalli urged that "leadership changes must not be just formal but qualitative " as well, and said that the upcoming party congress should elect "a leadership with clear aims, professionally prepared and with a clear national orientation." Already in early December party leader Nevzat Halili, General Secretary Mithat Emini, and other party officials who are also members of parliament resigned in the face of nationalist accusations that their policies had proven ineffective in obtaining the desired special constitutional status for Albanians. Fabian Schmidt MOLDOVA'S NEAR-TERM GOALS IN FOREIGN POLICY. Addressing the Foreign Ministry's staff on 11 January, President Mircea Snegur outlined the goals of Moldova's foreign policy for the near term, Basapress reported. The goals include full membership of the Council of Europe, preparation of association agreements with the EU and EFTA, joining the Central European Initiative (a move supported by Hungary in particular), strengthening ties with the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, and ascertaining the terms and conditions for joining NATO. On the bilateral level, the goals include close relations with Romania, the USA, West European countries, and Russia (in that order) and "finalizing the negotiations for a complete and undelayed withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova." The agenda reflects the Western orientation of Snegur and the Social Democrat-dominated foreign policy apparatus. Vladimir Socor NEW ROMANIAN TV GENERAL MANAGER APPOINTED. The government on 11 January appointed Dumitru Popa to run Romanian State Television, Radio Bucharest reports. Popa succeeds Paul Everac who resigned on 10 January following criticism by opposition parties and television staff. The 53-year-old Popa is a former communist-era prosecutor and journalist, who worked for the party daily Scinteia. He was named to the post by Prime Minister Nicolae Vacaroiu; his last position was that of chief of the government's information department. Dan Ionescu SLOVAK ORGANIZATIONS IN HUNGARY ASK FOR NEW PUBLICATION. In an open letter to the Hungarian parliament's human rights committee and to the government's National and Ethnic Minority Office, four organizations representing the interests Hungary's Slovak minority asked for funding to publish their own journal, MTI reported on 11 January. The organizations, the Free Organization of Slovaks, the Slovak Youth Organization in Hungary, the Slovak Folklore Association, and the Federation of Slovak Writers and Artists in Hungary complained that their views were excluded from the Slovak-language weekly published by the Federation of Slovaks in Hungary (FSH). The organizations protested that only the FHS's journal receives state funds, and urged that negotiations begin about establishing a second Slovak-language weekly. Edith Oltay SMUGGLING ACROSS LAKE SHKODER. During the night "Lake Shkoder turns into a maritime highway," Gazeta Shqiptare reported on 8 December. According to the Tirana-based paper, the smugglers bring lots of oil, cigarettes, and alcohol across the Albanian-Montenegrin border in little ships. The Albanian Defense Ministry seems unable to prevent the trade, which according to CSCE monitors takes place in cooperation with Montenegrin police, customs, and army personnel, because the Albanians have little equipment and no navy to work with. The Albanian authorities nonetheless managed to confiscate 11,000 liters of kerosene in only a week, the newspaper said. Even so, relations between Tirana and Podgorica have improved since the visit of Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic in September although Albania enforces sanctions against rump Yugoslavia. Fabian Schmidt POLISH SEJM PASSES COPYRIGHT BILL. By a vote of 408 to 1, the Sejm approved much-postponed copyright legislation on 7 January, PAP reports. The bill, which replaces legislation dating back to 1952, is designed to protect all forms of intellectual property from unauthorized duplication. If passed by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill will impose stiff sanctions, including prison terms of up to five years, on copyright "pirates." The lack of legal provisions to combat the organized duplication and sale of videocassettes, musical recordings, computer programs, and the like had threatened to make Poland a haven for pirates and a pariah among publishing and recording nations. ¥ Louisa Vinton BULGARIAN CENTRAL BANK TRIES TO STABILIZE LEV. On 7 January the Bulgarian National Bank for the second time in three days raised the prime interest rate in order to stop the depreciation of the lev. The BNB said in a statement that the decision to raise the interest rate from 53% to 56% was intended to break "the speculative demand for hard currency." BNB chief economist Lyubomir Hristov told Reuters that it is vital that Bulgarians retain confidence in their currency, but acknowledged that the measure would have negative repercussions on the affairs of bank clients, financial institutions, as well as on the government's planned budget policy. Other economists said they saw little value in the second rate hike, which prompted several owners of imported goods stores to shut up shop, saying that they would lose money if they went on selling while the lev is falling steeply. BNB Director Todor Valchev told Bulgarian TV that the underlying factors for the depreciation of the lev are rising inflation, shrinking domestic production, the growing budget deficit, political instability, and the lack of external financial support for economic reforms. By close of business on 10 January, observers agreed that the currency market seemed to have calmed down. Kjell Engelbrekt LATVIAN-LITHUANIAN TALKS ON OIL TERMINAL. On 10 January Latvian and Lithuanian Prime Ministers Valdis Birkavs and Adolfas Slezevicius along with energy and other ministers held talks in Nica, Latvia on the construction of an oil terminal at Liepaja, Radio Lithuania reported on 11 January. They approved the project with Lithuania having a 51% share and discussed Latvia obtaining a share in the oil refinery at Mazeikiai. The ministers also talked about a treaty on the maritime borders between the two countries which will be discussed further at their planned meeting in Riga on 19 January. Lithuanian Energy Minister Algimantas Stasiukynas said that his country would continue to build an oil terminal at Butinge since the shallowness of the passage to the Liepaja terminal would make it unsuitable for large tankers. The three Baltic energy ministers will meet in Riga on 12 January to discuss the creation of a Baltic consortium for oil terminals. ¥ Saulius Girnius ESTONIA APPOINTS SPECIAL ENVOY TO PALDISKI. On 6 January the Estonian government appointed Juri Tikk, an advisor to the Defense Ministry, its special envoy to Paldiski where the Russian navy has a nuclear submarine training center, Interfax reported on 7 December. Paldiski is the only place in the country where local elections were not held on 17 October 1993, primarily because local officials had not handed over resident files. It is estimated that the town has about 6,000-7,000 inhabitants of whom about 200 are Estonian citizens. Tikk was given two weeks to draft proposals for solving the town's problems and the justice ministry the same period to forward proposals on the legal basis for local self-government. The Interior Ministry was instructed to register the town's resident by the end of March. Saulius Girnius [As of 1200 CET] Complied by Suzanne Crow and Patrick Moore 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. 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