|Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith. - Christopher Fry|
No. 110, 13 June 1994
RUSSIA RUSSIA READY TO JOIN NATO PARTNERSHIP? Western agencies offered differing interpretations of the 10 June meeting in Istanbul of foreign ministers from NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. The New York Times and The Washington Post each accented the positive, reporting that Moscow had set aside its differences with the Western alliance over the NATO Partnership for Peace Program and that Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev had reaffirmed Moscow's desire to join the program. Both accounts noted that there was some disappointment in the West over Kozyrev's failure to specify a date for the signing, but they suggested that NATO had made "face-saving" concessions to Kozyrev that would shield him and the Russian government sufficiently from the criticism of nationalists at home. The New York Times said that Kozyrev plans to sign simultaneously both the standard "partnership" agreement offered to all participating states, and certain additional agreements that would be unique to Russia. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. OR DID ISTANBUL MEETING MASK DIFFERENCES? Reuters in particular offered a far less sanguine assessment of events, however, arguing that the Istanbul meeting on 10 June had "brutally highlighted the disagreements between NATO and Russia on issues ranging from arms control to expanding membership of the alliance to Eastern Europe." The news agency quoted one NATO diplomat as saying that the meeting had been a "pretty bloody affair. It was an absolutely Soviet exercise, a disastrous performance by the Russians, and it does not augur well." In particular, Russian intransigence forced the meeting to drop from its final statement any reference to expanding NATO membership into the East, a development that reportedly enraged Eastern European and NATO representatives. At the same time, in his address to the ministers, Kozyrev again emphasized Moscow's view that NATO should become an appendage of the CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe), a policy strongly opposed by NATO members. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA, US, REACH COMPROMISE ON NORTH KOREA. Consultations between Kozyrev and US Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Istanbul did apparently yield a compromise and a common policy on the issue of dealing with North Korea's suspected nuclear weapons program. Reuters and AFP reported on 10 June that the two sides had agreed to prepare a motion for submission to the UN Security Council that would make the holding of an international conference on North Korea part of a broader package calling for sanctions against North Korea. The US had earlier been cool toward Moscow's call for a conference, while the Russian government had opposed sanctions urged by the US. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S PRESS CONFERENCE. During his press conference on 10 June to mark the fourth anniversary of Russia's declaration of sovereignty, President Boris Yeltsin criticized the government for "keeping postponing decisions on economic measures." He stressed, however, that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin had his full support and confidence. Last week, Yeltsin's spokesman denied reports that Chernomyrdin might resign. During the press conference, Yeltsin said that one of the most serious problems in Russia was poverty and added that a national program to fight poverty must be prepared under the president's control. Yeltsin also said he had ordered Security and Interior Ministries to take additional steps "to rid the country of criminal slum" in line with a new federal crime-fighting program. The president said he had also talked to Chernomyrdin about corruption at middle government levels and told the prime minister that "a major purge is necessary." Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN SIGNS SIX ECONOMIC DECREES. At his press conference on 10 June, Yeltsin announced that he had just signed a package of six new economic decrees designed to accelerate the pace of market reforms. The most important of these lifts a November 1993 ban on foreign banking operations involving Russian clients, a move believed necessary to .clear the way for Russia's agreement with the EU. The decree apparently applies only to banks from countries offering Russia reciprocal access. Yeltsin said that competition will irritate Russian bankers but have a salutary impact on interest rates, which are now running at 185%, Interfax reports. A second decree instructs the Central Bank to establish a deposit insurance fund and to monitor commercial banking activities more closely. Housing construction was the focus of other decrees: 30-year mortgage credits are to be issued to young people upon gaining employment; incentives are to be offered to private entrepreneurs willing to take over and complete unfinished housing projects. A first package of six economic decrees was issued on 23 May. Yeltsin said that a three more economic decrees are in preparation that will increase the powers of enterprise managers; protect investors in the securities market; and provide incentives for the import of investment goods. Yeltsin expressed optimism that a halt in the fall of industrial production is "just around the corner." Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA'S CHOICE BECOMES POLITICAL PARTY. Members of the largest State Duma faction, Russia's Choice, opened a congress in Moscow on 12 June, ITAR-TASS reported. The creation of a political party on the basis of Russia's Choice faction was announced. The only candidate for the party chairman is former acting prime minister Egor Gaidar. In his speech at the congress, Gaidar criticized Viktor Chernomyrdin's government for lacking a clear concept of reform. Gaidar also called for the creation of a single market on the territory of the former USSR. President Yeltsin's press secretary Vyacheslav Kostikov said the president's position is close to that of the new party. Kostikov added, however, that the president was going "to keep a prudent and intelligent distance from it." On 13 June, participants in the congress are going to elect a 25-member political council of the new party. Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. OPPOSITION MARKS RUSSIA'S INDEPENDENCE DAY BY PROTESTS. 12 June was the fourth anniversary of Russia's declaration of state sovereignty and the third anniversary of the election of Yeltsin as the first Russian president. The day, a public holiday in Russia, was marked by rallies in the center of Moscow, organized by the National Salvation Front, the Working Russia movement and other opposition organizations, ITAR-TASS reported. Demonstrators demanded the recreation of the Soviet Union and ouster of Yeltsin's government. Vera Tolz, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN ON MILITARY REFORM. At his press conference on 10 June, President Yeltsin criticized the slow pace of military reform, stating that the military will have to "carry out cuts more energetically," and observing that "the lack of decisiveness here is incomprehensible." Yeltsin's comments represent a clear criticism of Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's performance and may well fuel a new round of rumors concerning Grachev's future. Indeed, despite earlier assertions that he was supporting the military in its quest for a larger defense budget, Yeltsin was very quiet on this issue while it was being debated in the Duma. This latest statement may weaken those in the Federation Council (such as Vladimir Shumeiko) who are planning to make one more attempt to increase defense spending. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. "OFF-BUDGET" SUPPORT FOR DEFENSE? In the second part of his comments on the defense budget, Yeltsin made some rather confusing statements to the effect that "reserves" and "non-budgetary appropriations" could be used to prop up at least some of the defense industries. The only specific project he mentioned was the MiG arms deal with Malaysia, stating that the money "will be handed over and this will completely cover the gap." To whom the money would be given, and to what purpose, is unclear. In any case, the $550 million deal would only provide about 1 trillion rubles, while the military is requesting an additional 18 trillion rubles. A large fraction of the MiG deal is also to be paid in palm oil, rather than hard currency, raising the question of how the military might utilize this part of the "non-budgetary appropriation" if it were to receive it. John Lepingwell, RFE/RL, Inc. MALAYSIA DENIES MIG'S WERE "DUMPED." Malaysian Defense Minister Najib Abdul Razak has denied a report that the 18 MiG-29 jet fighters purchased recently from Russia represented a "dumping" of surplus Russian military equipment, Reuters reported on 12 June. The accusation of dumping was made by Rustam Narszikulov in the Russian newspaper Segodnya on 8 June (according to AFP). Najib insisted that Malaysia had made a thorough evaluation of the aircraft; he was quoted as saying that Malaysia "would get new aircraft and there is no question of dumping arms here to revive the so-called ailing Russian defense industry." Stephen Foye, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA GRACHEV VISITS GEORGIA . . . On 10 June Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev traveled from Erevan to Tbilisi, where he held talks with parliament chairman Eduard Shevardnadze on the creation of three permanent Russian military bases in Georgia in 1995 on expiry of the present temporary agreement on the status of the Russian troops currently deployed there, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. On the same day Grachev traveled to Gudauta for talks with Abkhaz parliament chairman Vladislav Ardzinba, after which he told Interfax that both parties had agreed to the deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia, to which he hoped the Russian parliament would accede within the next few days. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. . . . AND AZERBAIJAN. On 11 June Grachev proceeded to Baku for talks with Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliev, which culminated in agreement on establishing a unified air defense system for the Transcaucasus and on preparing an agreement on continued use by the Russian military of the strategic radar station at Gebele in northern Azerbaijan, ITAR-TASS and Interfax reported. Grachev failed, however, to persuade Aliev to sign his plan for a ceasefire and deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh; according to Interfax, Aliev continues to insist that Russian forces may be deployed in Azerbaijan only with a mandate from the CSCE. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. NATO DELEGATION IN KYRGYZSTAN. A NATO delegation, under the leadership of the chief of staff of its European armed forces, Peter Karstens, is on an official visit to Bishkek to discuss greater cooperation between the alliance and Kyrgyzstan, which recently signed on to the Partnership for Peace program. Karstens told a news conference on 11 June that NATO is interested in assisting Kyrgyzstan and other states in establishing and maintaining stability in Central Asia, but that it sees the problems in Tajikistan as being an internal CIS matter; NATO does not plan any peacekeeping operations in the region, Karstens was quoted by ITAR-TASS as saying. The delegation also discussed political questions with the Kyrgyz leadership, as well as assistance in the training of Kyrgyz officers; according to Interfax, Karstens rejected unspecified rumors, however, that NATO might deploy forces in Kyrgyzstan or get involved in military conversion there. Along with Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan have also joined the Partnership for Peace program, and the NATO delegation's visit can be seen as a first attempt to come up with some sort of structure and purpose for the relationship between the Central Asian states and NATO. Keith Martin, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE BOSNIAN CEASE-FIRE GENERALLY HOLDING. International media reported over the weekend of 10-12 June that the latest truce appears to be observed for the most part. The 11 June International Herald Tribune quotes UN commander Gen. Sir Michael Rose as saying that "I think we're seeing the beginning of the end of the war here." Elsewhere, there were the usual mutual accusations of violations around Brcko and in other areas, but major fighting was reported only between government troops and forces loyal to the local kingpin Fikret Abdic near Bihac. Abdic, in any event, is not a signatory to the agreement. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE MOVEMENT TOWARD A BOSNIAN SETTLEMENT? Western and Russian diplomats are preparing for a meeting of their "contact group" later this week. They plan to present the Bosnian partners to the conflict with what Reuters on 12 June describes as a "take it or leave it plan" that would give the Muslim-Croat federation 51% of the republic's territory. Negative incentives are in the offing for both sides. These reportedly would include a lifting of the arms embargo on the Muslims if the Serbs prove stubborn, and a partial easing of sanctions on Serbia if the Muslims balk. The biggest concessions would have to come from the Serbs, who have conquered 70% of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Meanwhile, Reuters on 11 June quotes Bosnian Serb parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik as denying that there is a rift between his people and Belgrade. His remarks came in apparent response to a statement by rump Yugoslav President Zoran Lilic, who had suggested that Serbia would not support the Bosnian Serb cause indefinitely. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL, Inc. ALBANIAN UNIVERSITY FOUNDED IN MACEDONIA. On 6 June Flaka reported that an Albanian language university is to be founded in Tetovo. The idea for the university came from the Intellectual Albanian Cultural Forum in Macedonia, which solicited support from the district councils of Tetovo, Gostivar, and Debar (towns where Albanians constitute the majority of the population). The university is slated to open for the 1994-1995 academic year and will have three faculties: Philosophy, Law and Theology. An executive committee of the university has been formed, consisting of 18 members. Official permission to found the organization has not been obtained, nor is the source of institutional funding yet determined. Ismije Beshiri, RFE/RL, Inc. MIHAJLOVIC BACKS LILIC, ELEVEN EMBASSY OFFICIALS NAMED. On 11-12 June Borba reported on remarks made by New Democracy (ND) leader Dusan Mihajlovic in which he observed that he "supported Lilic to the fullest." Mihajlovic, leader of a small caucus in the Serbian legislature consisting of only six deputies, broke ranks with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia in order to support the Socialist Party of Serbia government. Mihajlovic's most recent positive comments about Lilic's leadership suggest that the ND and SPS have forged a stable working relationship, and follow in the wake of Mihajlovic's 8 June Borba interview, in which he criticized major opposition party leaders for failing to reach a modus vivendi with the SPS. In other news, on 11 June Politika reported that federal authorities have named eleven consular and diplomatic chiefs who are slated to be posted in capitals around the world. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH SEJM VOTES TO LEGALIZE ABORTION. The Sejm voted on 10 June to amend the penal code to permit abortions in cases of "difficult material conditions or a demanding personal situation," PAP reports. The law in force since early 1993 allows abortion only when the pregnant woman's life or health is threatened; when the fetus is irreparably damaged; or when a prosecutor certifies that the pregnancy is the result of a crime. The vote to liberalize the law was 241 to 107, with 32 abstentions. The Democratic Left Alliance and the Union of Labor were uniformly in favor, while the Freedom Union and the Polish Peasant Party were divided on the issue. The deputies also voted to allow private clinics to perform abortions; they are now restricted to state facilities. The Sejm rejected motions from the floor that would have forced women to obtain permission from a doctor, psychologist, or judge before having an abortion, but voted to impose a three-day waiting period and require a medical consultation. President Lech Walesa is expected to veto the legislation; the Sejm would then need a two-thirds majority to override. Cardinal Jozef Glemp commented on 12 June that "this Sejm was born in a time of national sickness." Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN DECLINES WALESA'S INVITATION. Russian President Boris Yeltsin told a press conference in Moscow on 10 June that he will be unable to attend ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, PAP reports. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is expected to represent Russia in his place. Yeltsin claimed that "the invitation came too late" and that his calendar of international visits is already too full. Polish officials noted, however, that Polish President Lech Walesa had dispatched invitations to world leaders, including Yeltsin, on 9 August 1993. Walesa's decision to invite Yeltsin has stirred controversy in Poland because of Soviet complicity in the uprising's defeat. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. RUSSIA'S STANCE ON NATO WORRIES POLAND. "We recognize the need for a strong partnership between NATO and Russia," Polish Foreign Minister Andrzej Olechowski told the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) in Istanbul on 10 June, "but it would be a paradox of history if . . . this new partnership were to lead to the marginalization of smaller countries." Olechowski told reporters in Warsaw after his return from the conference that Russia's success in blocking the inclusion in the NACC statement of a clause saying that active participation in the Partnership For Peace would help lead to future NATO membership signifies that Russia has not "fully accepted" a Polish role in the PFP or the West European Union, PAP reports. Russian participation in the PFP is in Poland's interest, Olechowski said; should Russia fail to take this path, it would mean that Russia "is beginning to create a world of its own, which would present Poland with a difficult dilemma," PAP reports. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIA TO RECEIVE $1.5 BILLION CREDIT PACKAGE. International media say nine Western states and financial institutions pledged on 11 June to provide Bulgaria with $940 million in fresh support to fill its foreign exchange shortfall for 1994, adding that another $620 million would probably be forthcoming in 1995. The so-called Consultative Group for Bulgaria, which has been brought together by the World Bank, declared after a meeting in Paris that Bulgaria's "ambitious reform efforts merit continued international assistance." Also attending the meeting, Bulgarian Finance Minister Stoyan Aleksandrov told journalists he had informed the group about the government's plans to slash subsidies to inefficient state enterprises and launch a mass privatization scheme to speed up structural reforms. He said Sofia further hopes that more foreign investment will flow into the country if an agreement to reschedule the bulk of Bulgaria's commercial debt is concluded soon. The group stated that it acknowledges the "adverse external environment" caused by the debt problem and the effects of the United Nations embargo against rump Yugoslavia. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL, Inc. EXPLOSION DAMAGES HUNGARIAN PARLIAMENT BUILDING. On 11 June at 2:40 a.m. the building of the Hungarian Parliament was damaged by an explosion, MTI reports. The damaged door and panes of some 120 windows have already been replaced, but the damage to the wall of the building still has to be repaired. The new parliament, however, will be able to start its work as scheduled. An investigation of the device causing the explosion seems to indicate that the explosive was not home-made. There is no sign indicating who set it off, although it is generally believed that the person or persons behind the action were dissatisfied with the outcome of the election in which the ex-communists returned to power. Others nonetheless suggest that this event might be connected to other detonations set off in cities like Szeged, a town close to the Yugoslav border, and could be related to the activities of the Serbian mafia. A five million forint reward is offered for information leading to the arrest of the criminals. Judith Pataki, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAK GOVERNMENT ON MINORITIES. At the request of the Czech minority in Slovakia, on 10 June the Slovak cabinet's council for nationalities approved a proposal to offer teaching in Czech language, set to begin in certain districts during the next school year. Deputy Premier Roman Kovac said it will be possible to fulfill requests to offer education in Ruthenian and Romany languages following the codification of these languages, which is now being prepared. The council also decided that national minorities living in Slovakia will be allotted 140 million koruny from the 1994 state budget to help promote their cultural development, exceeding the total amount allocated to minorities in 1993 by 10 million koruny. These funds will be used for theaters and professional assemblies, as well as for cultural unions and the national press, TASR reported. Speaking on Slovak Radio on 10 June, Premier Jozef Moravcik said that issues concerning the Hungarian minority should be addressed in a state treaty between Hungary and Slovakia. Sharon Fisher, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN OPPOSES MINORITY DEMAND. President Iliescu's spokesman, Traian Chebeleu, said at a press conference carried by Radio Bucharest on 10 June that the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's demand for "autonomy" and the support of this demand by Hungarian politicians is dangerous. Chebeleu was asked to comment on a message sent to the HDFR by the president of the Hungarian Socialist Party, Gyula Horn, who promised to support "the striving for autonomy, which is of vital importance" for Hungarians living outside Hungary. The concept of autonomy, Chebeleu said, has not been clarified. If by it is meant "ethnic autonomy" it must be rejected, since it was likely to lead to the setting up of some sort of ethnic homelands of the like that used to exist in South Africa. It would also "contradict European principles" and would be "dynamite" for the unity of the country. If, on the other hand, its proponents mean "administrative autonomy," that already exists in those areas where national minorities are in majority and elect their own local government. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN OPPOSITION PARTY SEEKS ILIESCU IMPEACHMENT. In a press release broadcast by Romanian Television on 10 June, the opposition National Peasant Party Christian Democratic said it planned to initiate impeachment procedures against President Ion Iliescu in parliament. The NPPCD accuses Iliescu of trying to alter the course of justice and of violating the constitutional independence of the judiciary. The NPPCD referred to statements made by Iliescu last month criticizing court rulings that handed back to their original owners houses seized by the communist regime and calling for their review. The impeachment motion must be signed by one-third of the members of both houses of parliament before it can be debated. Though this may be possible, it needs endorsement by a majority in order to pass, and this is unlikely to be achieved in the present make-up of the legislature. The constitution requires that the impeachment be checked for its legality by the Constitutional Court before being approved in parliament, following which it is to be submitted to a national referendum. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH NATIONAL PROPERTY FUND CHAIRMAN RESIGNS. Tomas Jezek, chairman of the National Property Fund (NPF), the Czech Republic's top privatization agency , resigned on 10 June under pressure from the presidium. Roman Ceska, the deputy minister of privatization, was appointed to the post, CTK reported. In recent weeks, Jezek has been criticized for approving privatization deals that appeared to be flawed. In explaining his decision, Jezek said that he had decided to resign because of "incessant attempts by some NPF's members, especially Privatization Minister Jiri Skalicky, to recall him." According to Jezek, this pressure has made the NPF's work increasingly difficult. Jezek also pointed out that under the draft law on the conflict of interests, which is currently debated by the parliament, the post of the NPF chairman will be incompatible with the post of chairman of the parliament's budget committee, which he also holds. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL. Ukrainian television reported on presidential campaigning on 9 June. Candidates have centered their programs on dealing with economic problems. Minister of Education Petro Talanchuk had gone to the Lviv oblast, where he said that his priorities as president would be to choose a government that would act rather than talk. Valerii Babich traveled to the Luhansk oblast where he held a series of meetings at which he said he had been prompted to go into politics in order to put the economy into order, because so far it has only been going into a "blind corner." He said the market economy must be oriented towards the social security of the country's citizens, since states' policies should focus on their people. It was also reported that Volodymyr Lanony had been campaigning in Kryvy Rikh, and Leonid Kuchma had been to Dnipopetrovsk and Kiev. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. VOTER DOUBTS OVER BELARUSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. According to an opinion poll carried out by the newspaper Homelskaya prauda, 14% of those interviewed said they did not believe in was possible to have truly democratic presidential elections in the republic, Belarusian radio reported on 9 June. On the question of whether there were any sufficiently capable candidates running, 12% responded that they did not believe there were. Only 4.7% did not feel a president was necessary for Belarus, however, while 80% said they intended to vote in the coming elections. According to Belarusian radio from 10 June, there are 7,349,710 eligible voters. In order for elections to be valid 3,674,856 must participate in the voting. If no candidate receives over 50% of the votes in the first round, runoff elections will be held. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL, Inc. ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN KAZAKHSTAN AND CHINA. On 10 June Lennart Meri and Foreign Ministry Deputy Chancellor Priit Kolbre flew to Almaty, BNS reports. Meri and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a pact on mutual understanding and cooperation. Meri welcomed Nazarbayev's proposal for creating an Euro-Asian Union that would be open not only to CIS countries and might include China. Priit and Kazakh First Deputy Foreign Minister Kassymzhumart Tokayev signed an agreement on cooperation between the foreign ministries in a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Sergei Tereshchenko. On 12 June Meri flew to Peking for meetings with President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Li Peng, and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. Saulius Girnius, RFE/RL, Inc. ESTONIAN PRIME MINISTER REMAINS PARTY HEAD. At its congress on 11 June, the Isamaa (also known in English as Pro Patria) political party reelected Prime Minister Mart Laar as its chairman; he received 191 of the 337 votes. This solidifies Laar's position both within the party and the government. One of the reasons for holding the congress was to resolve the disputes that had arisen among the party members as a consequence of the resignation of the justice and defense ministers in May. Laar had stated earlier that if he was not reelected as party chairman, he would resign from the premiership, BNS reported on 11 June. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. CHURKIN CRITICAL OF LATVIA'S DRAFT CITIZENSHIP LAW. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Vitalii Churkin told Interfax on 10 June that if the draft citizenship law, endorsed by the Latvian parliament on 9 June, goes into effect, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin may have to postpone his visit to Latvia, scheduled for later this month. (In order for the law to come into effect, the final draft must still be passed by the Saeima.) He said that "in conditions when Latvia adopts discriminatory laws, we must be in no haste to sign Russian-Latvian economic agreements" and that the possibility exists that Russia would cancel the temporary granting of "most favored nation" to Latvia in matters of trade. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL, Inc. Copyright 1994, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
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