|Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece. - Vladimir Nabokov|
No. 133, 15 July 1994
RUSSIA DETAILS ON RUSSIA'S CSCE PROPOSAL. The director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's European cooperation department was quoted by Interfax on 14 July as saying that Russia has proposed enhancing the CSCE and turning it into a central coordinating body that would oversee the activities of the CIS, the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, the European Union, the Council of Europe, NATO, and the West European Union. Yurii Ushakov said that Russia had also proposed the creation of a new executive committee within the CSCE, consisting of 10-12 permanent and rotating members. He said that the CSCE should focus its activities on "protecting human rights from ethnic and religious intolerance and any manifestations of aggressive nationalism." Ushakov's remarks presumably refer to a formal proposal sent to the CSCE chairman in early July that is intended for discussion at the next CSCE conference (see 7 July Daily Report). The proposal seems to reflect Moscow's twin goals of diminishing the role of NATO while building a broader transnational European organization in which Russia would have a greater role, and of using the human rights issue--and alleged abuses against Russian minorities--to buttress Russia's dominant position within the former USSR. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIAN EXPERT CAUTIOUS ON LIFTING IRAQ OIL EMBARGO. A Russian government expert has told the Petroleum Information Agency that lifting the UN embargo on the export of Iraqi oil exports could destabilize the world energy market by lowering world oil prices, Interfax reported. The result, he said would be a sharp decrease in Russia's currency revenues from oil and oil-based products, a development which he said would threaten both Russian oil producers and attempts to liberalize Russia's economy. The expert's remarks came in the wake of a request from Baghdad that Moscow support the lifting of the embargo, and suggested that, aside from geo-political considerations, Russia has economic interests that may serve as a disincentive to supporting Iraq on this issue. Iraq reportedly has promised to use oil revenues to pay off its debt to Moscow, estimated by some experts at $7 billion. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. DUMA ADOPTS LAW ON MEDIA. On 14 July the State Duma adopted the controversial Law on Coverage of Activities of the Bodies of State Power by the State Media. According to the law, the state-owned media must inform the public of the activities of the president, government and parliament within 24 hours after any noteworthy event. Journalists are required to assist the authorities in addressing the nation via the state-owned media; they are also required to refrain from making any commentaries in the broadcasts. The law also provides for a separate broadcast of parliamentary debates on Russian TV during prime time. Furthermore, it states that parliamentary leaders, as well as leaders of factions, are entitled to a certain amount of air time on national TV, while other deputies are entitled to access to local radio and TV stations in their constituencies. While the law is generous in providing deputies with air time, it forbids bodies of state power to own any media independently, except for purely informative bulletins. Thus the cabinet of ministers must divest itself of two major Russian newspapers, Rossiiskaya gazeta and Rossiiskie vesti. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER JUSTIFIES AUGUST 1991 COUP. Testifying at the trial of General Valentin Varennnikov, the only defendant of the August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev to have refused the amnesty, Russian deputy Minister of Defense Boris Gromov said that the attempted coup was necessary to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian TV reported on 13 July. A provision in the Russian law says that a person who violated the law in order to prevent a more serious ill for society should not be penalized for his actions, and Gromov took that line in Varennikov's defense. In the fall of 1991, however, Gromov had said that he had opposed the coup. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL Inc. DUMA REVERSAL ON GOVERNMENT SESSION. Amid demands for a no-confidence vote in the government from Agrarian and Communist Party members, the State Duma resolved on 14 July that all of its deputies would attend a special enlarged government session scheduled for 15 July to review economic results from the first half of 1994 and discuss policy for the future. The Duma later reversed its decision, opting instead to send a smaller delegation of committee chairmen, faction leaders, and deputies with good attendance records. President Boris Yeltsin had originally been set to chair the session. However, ITAR-TASS cited "reliable sources" early on 15 July as reporting that Yeltsin had failed to attend because of a cold. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIA'S LOW INFLATION: STABLE TREND OR ABERRATION? President Boris Yeltsin and government officials have cited low inflation figures for June--4.8% in some accounts, 6% in others--as a sign of Russia's progress in achieving fiscal stabilization. These figures have been used to justify the official optimism expressed on the economy at the recent G-7 summit and other international gatherings. Several recent forecasts suggest, however, that prices are likely to surge again in coming months. An Academy of Sciences report quoted by Interfax on 14 July predicts that monthly inflation will remain at 10% for the rest of 1994. Stringent credit policies have "artificially" prompted a production collapse, the report said; if the government attempts to halt this collapse by easing interest rates, inflation could bounce back to earlier levels of 20-25%. A report by a government economic research center summarized by Interfax the same day predicted inflation of 12-14% per month by year's end. It also warned that an "avalanche" of bankruptcies is imminent in the banking system. Should the government attempt to salvage troubled commercial banks by issuing new credits, inflation could go even higher. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL Inc. TURKEY, RUSSIA TO DISCUSS ARMS FOR DEBT DEAL, COOPERATION. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets will visit Turkey on 15-21 July to discuss a deal whereby Turkey would take delivery of Russian military hardware to pay off some $404.3 mil-lion in loans taken by Moscow between 1989 and 1991, Reuters reported. A Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the two sides would also discuss the progress of joint working groups formed last year on such issues as pipelines, energy, industry, and transportation. The spokesman characterized the visit of Soskovets and his delegation as "the most important and comprehensive visit since Prime Minister Tansu Ciller visited Moscow in September 1993 and President Boris Yeltsin was in Istanbul [in June 1992]." Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIAN BANKING RESTRICTIONS TIGHTENED. In an effort to prevent the proliferation of undercapitalized commercial banks, Russia's Central Bank has raised the minimum capital required for registration to 1 million ECU (about 2.2 billion rubles), Interfax reported on 13 July. The minimum capital level had already been raised from 100 million to 2 billion rubles on 1 March. Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko reported earlier in the month that, as of the end of June 1994, 2,214 Russian banks with an aggregate capital of roughly 2 trillion rubles ($1 billion) had been registered in Russia. Noting that foreign banks control about 5% of that sum, Gerashchenko restated his cautious approach to issuing further licenses for foreign operations. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL Inc. POTENTIAL ARMS SALES TO IRAQ, LIBYA. Quoting an Interfax report, Radio Rossii on 14 July said that Russia was prepared to resume arms sales to Iraq and Libya if UN sanctions against the two countries were lifted. Interfax reportedly received its information from a spokesman for the state arms trading company, Rosvooruzheniye. Company spokesmen reportedly claimed that Russia has lost up to $16 billion since the sanctions were imposed. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ON HAITI. Izvestiya on 15 July quoted a "highly placed" but unnamed Foreign Ministry source as saying that Russia had not ruled out the possibility that force would be required to deal with the crisis in Haiti, but that "we believe that it is necessary to work out sanctions before deciding on a military operation." The source reportedly refused to answer when asked how Russia would respond to a US intervention in Haiti in the near future. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. JAPAN SEES RUSSIA AS POTENTIAL DESTABILIZING FACTOR. The Japanese Defense Agency's annual "White Paper," released on 15 July, said that Russia still maintained approximately 240,000 ground troops in the Far East, with massive air and naval capabilities, and that the "future of the Russian military remains uncertain because it is linked to political and economic instability in Russia," Reuters reported. According to ITAR-TASS, the White Paper said that although there was evidence of some reductions in Russia's Far East forces, that development was balanced by the modernization of Russia's military hardware in the region. AFP said that the document had elevated the crisis on the Korean peninsula to Tokyo's top concern, and had dropped the Russian military threat to second position. Stephen Foye, RFE/RL Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA KAZAKH PARLIAMENT ACTS. After considerable debate, the Kazakh parliament officially approved a new budget which sets spending at 87.7 billion tenge, and revenues at 67.5 billion tenge ($1.96 billion and $1.51 billion, respectively, at the official exchange rate of 44.7 tenge per dollar). Interfax reported on 14 July that the northern regions of the republic, where the population is predominately Russian, complained that they were shouldering a far greater tax burden than the southern regions; as a result, no budget structure detailing sources of revenue and targets for spending was approved. The parliament also ratified an agreement on leasing the Baikonur cosmodrome to the Russian Federation. Under the terms of the agreement, which was signed by the presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan on 28 March 1994, the cosmodrome will be leased to Russia for 20 years, with a 10-year renewal option; Russia will pay Kazakhstan $115 million annually for the use of Baikonur. The agreement has yet to be approved by Russia's State Duma, where deputies have reportedly complained that the fee is too high and that the Baikonur facilities are in a "critical" state. Keith Martin, RFE/RL Inc. CIS TRANSDNIESTER ARMISTICE TERMS AGAIN VIOLATED. The Bendery-based Joint Control Commission, which oversees the implementation of the 1992 armistice convention, held an extraordinary meeting in Dubasari on 13 July to deal with violations in that area, Basapress reports. The commission noted that "border guard" units of the "Dniester republic" have repeatedly entered the security zone entrusted to Russian peacekeepers, set up "border" posts there, illegally stopped and checked Moldovan peacekeepers and vehicles on patrol, and blocked access to military (including Russian) observers on inspection. The Moldovan side has long complained that Russian peacekeepers tolerate such violations by "Dniester" forces. The Joint Commission at its meeting ordered the commander of Russian peacekeeping force in the area to improve his performance. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE SERBS CALL PARTITION PLAN "INCOMPLETE." AFP on 14 July quotes Radio Pale as saying that the take-it-or-leave-it peace proposal leaves too many questions open and that the ruling party wants more details before the legislature votes on it. Of particular interest to the Serbs are: long-term constitutional arrangements; the status of Sarajevo; and a Serb outlet to the Adriatic. Meanwhile, international and Belgrade papers are full of speculation about some sort of political clash over the plan among top Serbs. According to some scenarios, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic wants the Bosnian Serbs to agree in order to get international sanctions lifted against Serbia-Montenegro but is opposed by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Other models show Milosevic joined by Karadzic but opposed by parliamentary hard-liners and by Bosnian Serb military commander Gen. Ratko Mladic. Yet another theory suggests that Milosevic might seek Mladic as an ally against a stubborn Karadzic, etc., etc.. Two points, however, need to be recalled in analyzing any alleged Serbian in-fighting. First, the Bosnian and Krajina Serbs are totally dependent on Serbia for support of all kinds, and Milosevic has the power to cut everything off whenever he so chooses. Second, while the sanctions have meant hardship and suffering to ordinary Serbs, many powerful people have profited handsomely from the resultant smuggling and profiteering and presumably have little interest in killing the goose that produces so many golden eggs. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. UN AND NATO TO DISCUSS MEASURES IF PLAN NOT ACCEPTED. News agencies reported on 14 July that officials of the world organization and the Atlantic alliance will meet over the weekend as part of ongoing contingency planning to discuss options if either the Serbs or the Muslim-Croat federation fail to give unqualified endorsement to the "contact group's" proposal. It is not clear, however, what might happen if all agree but then go back on their words. As so often in the Wars of the Yugoslav Succession, agreement is one thing but implementation is another. Meanwhile, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has postponed a visit to Sarajevo slated for 15 July because the Serbs would not guarantee his safety. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. CROATIAN REFUGEES ON THE MARCH. International and Croatian media report that several hundred refugees from the 30% of Croatian territory under Serb occupation blocked UN headquarters in Zagreb on 14 July. Impatience is growing again among the quarter of a million people displaced by the fighting and ethnic cleansing, and the refugees often blame UNPROFOR for sealing off Serb conquests rather than reintegrating them with Croatia. Some observers suggest that the Croatian authorities have at least condoned the protests as a way of drawing attention to UNPROFOR and away from themselves, and of keeping up pressure on the UN. Last summer a column of refugees threatened to march back to their old homes, but were talked out of it at the last minute by a Russian UNPROFOR commander. Since early July this year, refugees have been blocking UN control posts off from the Croatian hinterland, AFP notes. Elsewhere in the Croatian capital, Hina said that the Bosnian and Croatian prime ministers had met to discuss a variety of economic, humanitarian, and infrastructure questions. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. SESELJ CALLS FOR "WESTERN SERBIA." On 15 July Serbian media continue their coverage of rump Yugoslav reactions to the current international peace plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Borba reports that ultranationalist leader of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) Vojislav Seselj once again, at a 14 July press conference, condemned the plan. This time, Seselj seemed little content to merely criticize, and argued that as an alternative to the proposal, the Serbs in Bosnia could unite with the rebel Serbs in Krajina to form their own "independent" state of "Western Serbia." Meanwhile, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), led by Vuk Draskovic, has declared that Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has, in seemingly supporting international peace efforts, adopted a general position advocated by the SPO "already for three years." Stan Markotich, RFE/RL Inc. POLISH-RUSSIAN TALKS ON KATYN. A Polish delegation including General Staff chief Tadeusz Wilecki, State Security Office head Gromoslaw Czempinski, and foreign ministry and presidential representatives attempted during talks in Moscow on 15 July to break the impasse in Polish-Russian relations that has followed the shift to "neoimperial" attitudes and Russia's resulting dismissive indifference to Poland. Polish officials, who said the talks featured "strong words," pressed the Russian side to fix a date for the start of exhumations at Katyn and Mednoye. A Polish-Russian agreement requires the Russian side to finance the exhumations and build cemeteries. The Russian delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Yarov, agreed to appoint an official to set the date within ten days, Gazeta Wyborcza reports. Polish Ambassador Stanislaw Ciosek said the delay was likely caused by Russian hesitance to set a precedent in exhuming Polish victims, as there are thousands of similar mass graves all over Russia. Yarov cited Russian Orthodox religious qualms, however. The Poles also urged Russian prosecutors to move quickly to complete the official investigation into the Katyn massacre, the Politburo-ordered executions of 20,000 Polish officers and civilians in 1940. This investigation was opened in 1990 and has seemed near conclusion several times in the past. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL Inc. POLISH STRIKERS THREATEN TO TAKE OVER PRODUCTION. As the impasse between the trade unions and the Italian management continued at the Lucchini steel mill in Warsaw, striking workers threatened on 14 July to resume production on their own. Strike com-mittee leaders acknowledged that any attempt to renew production would violate the law, but argued that the defense of the plant from "physical liquidation" was a higher necessity. The Lucchini group said that the start-up of production would mean "confrontation" and make the settlement of the strike more difficult. Although the occupation strike has already lasted 36 days, no negotiations have taken place. Lucchini demands that the strike end first. The industry ministry on 14 July reiterated that it is "not a side" in the conflict. A second hunger-striker was taken to the hospital on 14 July, Rzeczpospolita reports. Louisa Vinton, RFE/RL Inc. CZECH TRADE DEAL WITH IRAQ. Czech Industry and Trade Minister Vladimir Dlouhy told CTK on 14 July that the Czech Republic had signed a barter agreement with Iraq which will take effect when the UN. Security Council lifts sanctions against Iraq. According to Dlouhy, the agreement was signed when Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad Said Kazim Al-Sahhaf was in Prague at the beginning of July. The agreement allows Iraq to start paying off its large debt to the Czech Republic as soon as the sanctions are lifted. Iraq would use some of its exports to the Czech Republic to repay its debt and the rest to trade for Czech goods. The Czech Republic is currently a member of the UN. Security Council. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc. MUBARAK IN SLOVAKIA. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was on a one-day official visit to Slovakia on 14 July. Speaking to journalists following their meeting, Mubarak and Slovak President Michal Kovac declined to respond to a number of questions concerning the possibility of Slovak arms sales to Egypt. Without elaborating, Mubarak said, "Let's not call it arms purchases, but trade, a possible joint venture agreement." International media report that Egypt and Slovakia reached general agreements covering trade, taxation, and cultural exchanges. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL Inc. HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER DESIGNATE OUTLINES GOVERNMENT PROGRAM. Gyula Horn, Chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party, in presenting his coalition government program during his inaugural speech to parliament on 14 July, said ". . . a new [national] reconciliation is necessary for progress, prosperity and peace", reported MTI. Horn said the first-ever Hungarian socialist-liberal coalition government will be an instrument of national unity, and outlined specific aims of foreign and domestic policy. The coalition's 72% parliamentary voting majority will not lead to dictatorship, he said. He did warn, however, that even with the new parliament, significant rises in living standards could not be hoped for by the end of this legislature's four-year term. The country is in a critical economic and financial situation, drifting toward insolvency, he cautioned. On a personal note, Horn said that when he put a wreath on the grave of the 1956 revo-lutionary Imre Nagy last month, he also paid tribute to his own brother who was killed by the revolutionaries and who was also the victim of 1956. Horn said that a spirit of reconciliation is needed to avoid and heal divisions. Karoly Okolicsanyi, RFE/RL Inc. BULGARIAN PARLIAMENT IGNORES OBJECTIONS TO LAW ON JUDICIARY. On 14 July BTA reported that the National Assembly decided to overrule the objections of President Zhelyu Zhelev and adopt the controversial law on the judiciary. After meeting with a number of legal experts, Zhelev had returned the law to parliament with critical remarks regarding 14 different passages in the law. Among the key objections were that it is unfair to bar jurists without a 5-year experience as judges or prosecutors from top positions in the Bulgarian judiciary (a rule which is bound to increase the influence of the former communists), and that the legislation will have retroactive power in the sense that already appointed jurists who do not fit the requirements will be replaced. During the stormy discussions that preceded the balloting--in which 129 voted for and 78 against--several opposition deputies argued that part of the text contradicts the 1991 constitution and consequently threatens to clog up the legal system. The lawyer and leader of the Union of Democratic Forces, Filip Dimitrov, specifically warned that the law will delay the establishment of vital institutions like the Supreme Court of Cassation and a Court of Appeal. On the same day the chief justice of the US Supreme Court, William Rehnquist, arrived on a 4-day visit. He had been invited by the Chair of Bulgaria's Supreme Court, Ivan Grigorov, himself likely to become one of the first victims of the law. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL Inc. ZHELEV PROPOSES CONFERENCE ON EFFECTS OF UN EMBARGO. Bulgarian National Radio reported on 15 July that Zhelev during a meeting with UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has suggested a conference of states affected by international sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro. Zhelev said Bulgaria, which estimates it has lost over $2 billion primarily by being cut off from West European markets, is ready to host the conference, but would like Boutros-Ghali to attend it personally. The pretext for the president's visit to the United States was the unprecedented performance of the Bulgarian national team at the World Cup soccer games--reaching the semi-final--but he has also used the opportunity for meetings with top US and UN officials. Kjell Engelbrekt, RFE/RL Inc. KUCHMA PRESENTED WITH PRESIDENTIAL CERTIFICATE. The head of the Central Electoral Commission, Ivan Yemets, presented Leonid Kuchma with his presidential certificate on 14 July, Ukrainian television reported. Official election results showed that almost all of the votes cast were valid. In all, 71.74% of the electorate voted and almost all ballots (71.63% of the total electorates' votes) were considered valid. Final results showed that 52.14% voted for Kuchma and 44.45% against him, while 45.06% voted for Leonid Kravchuk and 54.54% against him. Kuchma is to be sworn in on 19 July. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL Inc. US CONCERNED OVER IRANIAN-UKRAINIAN DEAL. A15 July article in The Journal of Commerce reports that the US and UN seem concerned that an oil-for-oil equipment deal between Ukraine and Iraq may violate UN trade sanctions against Iraq. The deal involves a machine building plant in Bukovyna which would become Iraq's main supplier of oil refining equipment in exchange for oil. Ukraine's economic counselor in Washington, Yurii Yakusha, denied that any protocol had yet been signed and said the deal depended on the lifting of sanctions. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL Inc. BELARUSIAN NEWS. On 14 July Belinform-TASS reported that Vyacheslau Kebich continues to act as prime minister despite his resignation. Kebich and his government submitted their resignations on 12 July, but will still fulfill the duties until parliament meets and accepts their resignations. Belinform-TASS also reported that a member of president-elect Alyaksandr Lukashenka's team, Alyaksandr Feduta, has said that the price of bread may be lowered in the near future. Lukashenka had promised the electorate that he would stop inflation and bring down prices. According to Belarusian radio from 12 July, however, the pricing department within the ministry of economics announced that there would be no price reductions on foodstuffs in the near future. In other news Interfax reported on 14 July that Lukashenka is considering appointing the first deputy prime minister of Kebich's former cabinet, Mikhail Myasnikovich, as his prime minister. Ustina Markus, RFE/RL Inc. RENEWED MOVES AGAINST THE LATIN SCRIPT IN TRANSDNIESTER. The "Dniester republic's" education ministry announced on 13 July that any "attempts to impose the Latin script upon the Moldovan language may bring punishment under the existing laws," Basapress reported from Tiraspol. "Writing in the Moldovan language shall in every case without exception be based on the Cyrillic." The "Romanian language" in Latin script (as used in right-bank Moldova) may be taught as an elective foreign language, the instructions say. The ruling Russian minority in Transdniester has since 1989 vetoed moves by the native Moldovan population to use the Latin script. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL Inc. RUSSIAN BORDER GUARDS SET UP CHECKPOINTS AT ESTONIAN BORDER. In compliance with Russian President Boris Yeltsin's decree of 21 June 1994, Russian border guards have started setting up checkpoints and control strips on the temporary border demarcation line with Estonia. This border is contested by Estonia, since it includes Estonian territories transferred to the RSFSR after World War II without Estonia's acquiescence, BNS reported on 14 July. In a related development, Nikolai Zhdanov, chief of Russia's geodetic service, told Interfax on 14 July that his country is negotiating with the former USSR republics over the demarcation of borders. He said that of these countries only Estonia was making territorial claims against Russia and that the talks with Estonia were deadlocked. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL Inc. EFFORTS TO FORM A NEW GOVERNMENT IN LATVIA. On 14 July Prime Minister Valdis Birkavs and his cabinet of ministers officially resigned. Birkavs told the press that he could no longer bear the responsibility for this government. Birkavs linked the decision to step down to the withdrawal of Latvia's Farmers' Union deputies from the parliamentary coalition with Latvia's Way (Birkavs and most of the ministers are LW members) and the subsequent resignation of three LFU ministers from the government. President Guntis Ulmanis has started consultations with the political groups on the formation of a new government. Earlier that day the president's office issued a statement pointing out that Birkavs had not observed the relevant point of law by failing to inform beforehand the president and the chairman of the parliament. Dzintra Bungs, RFE/RL Inc. BETTING FEVER IN ALBANIA OVER WORLD CUP SOCCER. Enthusiasm for the world championship has swept the entire Balkans and not just Romania and Bulgaria, two countries in the area actually competing in the tournament. In Bosnia, front-line fighters have taken a break to cheer their favorite teams. In Albania, where all manner of old traditions and practices have returned with gusto after 45 years of Stalinist rule, betting on game outcomes is all the rage. The VOA reports on 15 July that big stakes can be involved. Reuters noted the previous day that one person bet $14,000 on the US-Colombia match, with wagers of $3,000 being nothing unusual. One Germany supporter in Kruja dropped dead after his team scored a goal against Bulgaria last Sunday, while the most remarkable story could be an unconfirmed report that one man bet and lost his wife over the Romania-Sweden match later that same evening. Patrick Moore, RFE/RL Inc. 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