|Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. - Sir Winston Churchill|
RFE/RL DAILY REPORT
NO. 241, 22 DECEMBER 1994
RUSSIA CHECHNYA: RESISTANCE MOUNTING. According to ITAR-TASS on 21 December, a joint session of Russia's government, Security Council, and Presidential staff that day concluded that Chechen resistance was "sharply increasing." It found that the defenders of Grozny were being reinforced and were moving outward from the city center to ward off Russian forces. Moreover, "guerrilla groups and snipers are active everywhere. Losses among the [Russian] servicemen have increased." A communique from invasion headquarters in Mozdok, on the same day, also reported by ITAR-TASS noted "a significant exacerbation of the situation in the last few days," as Russian units "are repeatedly being fired upon." Moreover, "Chechen fighters are laying mines and using Afghan-type hit-and-run tactics." It also reported that groups of outside "mercenaries" were joining the Chechen forces. In what appears to be the most intense engagement thus far, 11 members of a Russian "reconnaissance" (spetsnaz?) unit were killed and five went missing in fighting for the village of Petropavlovka to the north of Grozny, a Russian communique said. The Russian side has not updated its casualty toll since 15 December when it offered an implausibly low figure of 17 killed. Meanwhile, Russian air bombardment of Grozny and shelling of villages continued, increasingly described by Western agencies as "terror" bombing apparently aimed at persuading the population to leave. With the water, heating, electricity, and food supplies in Grozny severely disrupted, a growing number of people are fleeing the city. Ethnic Russian residents, not having relatives in the countryside, tend to remain behind, exposed to the hardships of a war among whose stated aims was that of protecting them. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. YELTSIN ADDRESSES THE CHECHENS. For the first time since the beginning of the invasion, and apparently prompted by the developing military quagmire, Russian President Boris Yeltsin addressed the people of Chechnya on 21 December. Restating the demand for the disarmament of Chechen "unlawful formations" (but notably dropping the standard adjective "bandit"), Yeltsin held them responsible for "the killing of fellow-countrymen--Chechens, Russians, and other nationalities"--and insisted that Russian forces engaged in Chechnya "are not endangering the peaceful population." These remarks are so at variance with the situation in the field that they seem to bear out Sergei Kovalev's point in his open letter to Yeltsin (see Daily Report of 21 December) about "false and mendacious information" being supplied to him. Yeltsin went on to pledge that "the deportation of the Chechen people will never be repeated under any circumstances"--a formulation that even if sincere and well meaning will remind Chechens about Yeltsin's September vow that there will be "no military intervention under any circumstances." Yeltsin pledged to provide economic relief, without mentioning the destruction being wrought by Russian forces, and to "guarantee all the civil rights and liberties" on Chechnya's territory and to restore "local bodies of power," without mentioning his own recent decree on the introduction of direct rule from Moscow in Chechnya. He predicted that Chechnya "will again become an equal subject of the Russian Federation." Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. CIVILIAN MORALE HIGH DESPITE LOSSES. Following an appeal by President Dzhokhar Dudaev, on 20 December despite wintry weather at least 100,000 Chechen joined a human chain on the highway from Grozny to Dagestan to protest the Russian military intervention and to reaffirm the goal of independence. The crowds held placards condemning the killing of civilians by Russian forces and calling for a free Chechnya. Some placards chastised international indifference to the situation. Anecdotal evidence reported by Western agencies indicated that ethnic Russians from Grozny participated in the chain. The inspiration for the action undoubtedly stemmed from Dudaev's experience in the Baltic States, where such demonstrations were organized during the final stage of Soviet rule. As commander of a Soviet air force division based in Estonia, Dudaev had shown sympathy for the Baltic independence movements. The mass response to his appeal belies the assumption, which permeates Russian official discussions of Chechnya, that most of the population opposes Dudaev. On the same day, Dudaev appealed to Chechens not to blame Russian residents for the actions of the Russian military. Although the local Russians are by all accounts unmolested, Moscow claims that they are in imminent danger. On 20 and 21 December, agencies reported the arrival of poorly equipped but determined Chechen volunteers from the countryside to reinforce the defense of Grozny. Vladimir Socor, RFE/RL, Inc. MOSCOW WARNS AZERBAIJAN, UKRAINE OVER VOLUNTEERS IN CHECHNYA. On 21 December the Russian government press service issued a statement, reported by Interfax and ITAR-TASS, condemning alleged atrocities committed in Chechnya by mercenary groups composed of volunteers from Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, two hundred of whom are reportedly headquartered at the Kavkaz hotel in Grozny. The continued participation of such groups in hostilities could, the statement warned, "complicate Russia's relations with the countries they come from." In the case of both Azerbaijan and Ukraine, the volunteers in question are politically aligned with radical opposition groups. Whether the Afghan contingent is that recruited last year by Heidar Aliev to fight in Nagorno-Karabakh, where a cease-fire has been in force for six months, is not clear. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. CHECHNYA: SOVIET DISSIDENT MOVEMENT REVISITED. The invasion of Chechnya has revived forms of activity typical of dissidents in the Brezhnev era, many of whom had hitherto supported President Yeltsin. Apart from the veteran human rights activists Sergei Kovalev and Mikhail Molostvov, whose actions in Grozny have been covered in the Daily Report, as many as 17 former political prisoners signed the appeal protesting against the invasion (Express-Khronika, 16 December 1994). Elena Bonner, a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki group and the widow of the Nobel prize winner Andrei Sakharov, declared in an open letter that Yeltsin could not remain Russia's president if the invasion were to continue. Finally, all four participants in the 1968 demonstration against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia who are still alive--Larisa Bogoraz, Pavel Litvinov, Nataliya Gorbanevskaya, and Viktor Fainberg--have signed a petition condemning the Russian intervention in Chechnya. Since no Russian newspaper has published their petition so far, it is circulated in samizdat form among Moscow human rights activists. Julia Wishnevsky, RFE/RL, Inc. YAKUBOVSKY DETAINED. On 21 December RFE/RL and St. Petersburg TV reported that Dmitrii Yakubovsky, who could be regarded as one of Russia's most controversial figures, was detained in Moscow by a police unit on combating organized crime and sent to St. Petersburg for questioning. Believed by many to be a key figure in a corrupt network in the Russian government, Yakubovsky gained worldwide notoriety in the summer of 1993 when he participated in the falsification of evidence aimed at incriminating the then Russian vice president, Aleksandr Rutskoi. (Yakubovsky's endeavors were supported by former Justice Minister Yurii Kalmykov, current acting Prosecutor-General Aleksei Ilyushenko, and other officials in Yeltsin's law enforcement bodies.) The radio and television reports quoted Russian lawyers as saying that Yakubovsky's detention was in connection with the recent theft of ancient manuscripts from a St. Petersburg library. The police believe that the manuscripts, which have a market value of $100-250 million, were stolen for a foreign customer as it would be impossible to sell such valuable artifacts in Russia. The St. Petersburg Federal Counterintelligence Service (FSK) has now recovered the manuscripts and expects to make further arrests, ITAR-TASS reported on 21 December. Julia Wishnevsky and Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. DUMA REJECTS 1995 BUDGET. Deputies rejected the draft 1995 budget at the first reading in a session on 21 December, ITAR-TASS reported. Another vote will be taken at a plenary session of the lower house on 22 December. The government's draft, prepared with the help of a joint parliamentary-governmental Conciliation Commission, envisages revenues of 156.2 trillion rubles, expenditures of 228.1 trillion rubles, and a deficit of 7.7 percent of GDP (0.1 percent lower than in the government's original draft). According to Finance Minister Vladimir Panskov, the average monthly inflation rate in 1995 will be 2.5-3 percent; the monthly inflation rate this November was 14.2 percent. The government's targets may have to be revised owing to the high cost of the war in Chechnya. As reported by Reuters, Panskov told Russian television on 20 December that the military operation had already cost Russia 400 billion rubles ($117 million). Penny Morvant, RFE/RL, Inc. TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA TURKMEN DEVALUATION DENIED. Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister Valerii Otchertsov has denied a 20 December report that Turkmenistan has devalued its currency, the manat, telling Interfax on 21 December that the official exchange rate of 10 manats to US $1 would not be changed. Western news agencies had carried the story that the exchange rate would be set at 230 manats to the dollar. According to Otchertsov, US dollars were being sold to private individuals at the rate of 230 manats for a dollar. RL's Turkmen Service has learned that the black market exchange rate is around 300 manats to the dollar. On 20 December, President Saparmurad Niyazov issued a decree prohibiting the circulation of foreign currency in the country and declaring the manat the only legal tender for everyone in Turkmenistan, including foreigners who until recently had to pay for all goods and services in convertible currency. Bess Brown, RFE/RL, Inc. CIS GEORGIA, AZERBAIJAN PROTEST CLOSURE OF FRONTIERS WITH RUSSIA. Georgian and Azerbaijani officials expressed concern on 21 December over the economic implications of the temporary closure by Russia of their frontiers with the Russian Federation, Western agencies and Interfax reported. Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Zurab Kervalishvili said the decision was justifiable only if it remained a short-term measure, and that a prolonged closure would seriously affect Georgia's already imploding economy. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Hasan Hasanov was quoted by Interfax as affirming that "in Baku's opinion there are no adequate reasons for such a step" and that the Azerbaijani leadership had not been consulted before the decision was taken. Interfax on 21 December quoted the Russian Border Guard Command as reporting that young men of draft age from Abkhazia and Azerbaijan are being actively recruited to participate in combat operations against Russian troops in Chechnya. Liz Fuller, RFE/RL, Inc. NAME STYMIES BLACK SEA FLEET TALKS. The Russo-Ukrainian talks on the division of the Black Sea Fleet adjourned on 21 December without reaching agreement. According to Interfax, one of the main reasons was that the two sides could not agree on the name to be used by the Russian fleet. Russia insisted that it be called the "Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation" while Ukraine said that it must be "Russia's Navy on the Black Sea." The two sides have also not resolved which bases each would use, and they were said to have different interpretations of certain terms, such as "leasing" and "separate bases." The negotiators will try again in January. Doug Clarke, RFE/RL, Inc. CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE UN SPECIAL ENVOY TO PRESENT BOSNIAN CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT. International agencies report that on 22 December Yasushi Akashi will present the warring factions in Bosnia with a ceasefire agreement to sign. The next day, he is to meet with both sides at Sarajevo airport to discuss how to achieve the planned cessation of hostilities. The agreement, brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter on the initiative of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, provides for a ceasefire by noon, 23 December, and a negotiated end to the war by 1 January. Meanwhile, Carter arrived back in the United States on 21 December after his four-day controversial peace mission in the former Yugoslavia. Speaking in Atlanta, Georgia, Carter confirmed that Bosnian Serbs and Muslims are supposed to release all prisoners of war. At the same time, he warned that the agreement was only a "tentative pact" and added that "the whole thing can very easily come apart." AFP reports that US government spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers said the same day that the five-nation Contact Group's peace plan was only a basis for negotiations in Bosnia. This stance was seen as a reversal of the United States' insistence that the Serbs accept the plan in its entirety. But French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe was quoted by Reuters as saying "we will not accept any going back on the principles in the plan." Juppe added that he "won't see Karadzic again until he has accepted the peace plan." Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. YUGOSLAV RESPONSES TO CARTER'S PEACE MISSION. Media in the former Yugoslavia continued on 22 December to report on reactions to Carter's peace initiative in Bosnia. Borba quotes Croatian Foreign Minister Mate Granic as saying the initiative has had the negative effect of ending Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's international isolation. This outcome, Granic noted, is not warranted by the Bosnian Serb leaders' track record of making promises only to break them. "In light of earlier experiences with Karadzic and his promises, one has to be very careful," he remarked. In other news, Politika reports that the Zagreb-Belgrade Autoput (highway) was finally reopened the previous day. Stan Markotich, RFE/RL, Inc. MORE ATTACKS IN SARAJEVO AND BIHAC. Two people died and seven were wounded when shells slammed into a Sarajevo market place on 22 December, Reuters reports. The attack was close to the spot where 68 people were killed by a mortar bomb in February. UN relief workers reported the previous day that four people--including two children--were wounded in a shell attack in the northwest Bosnian enclave of Bihac, according to international agencies. The workers said some six shells fell on a residential area of Cazin. In the Muslim town of Bihac, a UN-designated "safe area," fighting was reported to have slowed down on 21 December after what UNPROFOR spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Coward described as "probably the worst day . . . in quite a while." Coward also reported a strike the previous day by two self-made missiles in the area of Zedar. He said the self-made rockets appeared to be 250kg aircraft bombs with four free-flight 128mm rocket motors strapped to the back and a parachute to drop on target. "They are not very accurate, they are very indiscriminate and they have the potential to kill a lot of people if they go off in the right place at the right time," Coward said. Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. GERMAN GOVERNMENT PROMISES AIR SUPPORT IN BOSNIA. Germany on 21 December said that if a NATO evacuation of UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia proved necessary, it would contribute up to 26 aircraft, including fighter-bombers, and some 700 medical personnel, international agencies report. But it stressed that no German ground troops would participate in such an operation, largely because of continued sensitivity in both the former Yugoslavia and Germany over Nazi atrocities committed against the Serbs during the Second World War. The decision, which still has to be approved by the Bundestag (the lower house of the parliament), came on the heels of an announcement the previous day that the German government has decided in principle to send German warplanes into war zones for the first time since 1945. Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. POLISH PRESIDENT ATTACKS RULING COALITION. Lech Walesa on 21 December accused Poland's coalition government of counter-revolutionary efforts, international agencies report. During a parliamentary discussion, Walesa accused the government parties of wanting to revive old communist structures. Earlier, he had vetoed legislation on linking public sector wages to inflation (the current system links them to increases in industrial wages). Walesa said the bill was unfair to public sector workers, who, in his opinion, had been hardest hit by four years of market reforms. Walesa argued that teachers and doctors, in particular, are indispensable and must be paid accordingly. He said that if funds were lacking, doctors and teachers could be given shares in privatized companies which could then be sold on the stock market. The ruling left-wing coalition would need a two-thirds majority to override Walesa's veto. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. STRIKE IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC. Czech trade unions organized a 15-minute warning strike on 21 December to protest a bill on pensions recently drafted by the government. The proposed law would raise the retirement age for men to 65 and change the system of paying into the social security system. International and domestic media reported that tens of thousands of mostly industrial workers participated in the nationwide strike. Richard Falbr, chairman of the Bohemian-Moravian Chamber of Trade Unions, claimed the call for labor action was heeded by some 400,000 people and 4,500 local union organizations. A Reuters correspondent reported that trains were idle at Prague's central station and some taxi drivers observed the stoppage. Asked about the strike at a press conference, Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus said: "I really do not know whether there was any strike. We did not hear any sirens here." Previously, Klaus had said the plans to hold a strike were "unbelievable" and had stressed that the draft law was a civic, not a labor issue. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH GOVERNMENT APPROVES MILITARY STRATEGY. A document outlining the Czech Republic's military strategy was approved by the government at its session on 21 December, CTK reported. The document will be submitted to the parliament. Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists that the document outlines measures necessary for the protection of the Czech Republic in various international circumstances, the main principles of the Czech Republic's military strategy, and the reorganization of the Czech army. He also said the government has proposed that civilian service, as an alternative to military service, should be extended from one to two years. "The government is alarmed by the number of people applying for civilian service," the prime minister said. He added that anyone opting not to perform military service will have to defend his decision in front of a special commission. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. CZECH PRESIDENT VETOES TWO LAWS. Vaclav Havel on 21 December refused to sign a law on administrative fees and another on architects. The president's spokesman told the media that the law on administrative fees does not exempt humanitarian and charitable organizations from paying charges. He said that such organizations should not have to pay fees or taxes. In rejecting the law on architects, the president argued that it created unequal conditions for members of the same profession. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. TWO CONTROVERSIAL PRIVATIZATION BILLS PASSED IN SLOVAKIA. The Slovak parliament approved a bill on 21 December canceling the sale of about 50 state-owned companies sold to investors after the government of Jozef Moravcik approved the companies' privatization in September. Another bill passed by the parliament places responsibility for the sale of state assets in the hands of the National Property Fund. Members of the fund, who are directly appointed by the parliament, will be able to decide on privatization issues without consulting the government or ministries. The two laws were originally passed by the parliament in November, but President Michal Kovac refused to sign the bills and returned them to the parliament. According to the constitution, the president now must sign them. Opponents of the new laws have claimed they are unconstitutional and will not give the public a say in privatization matters. Some opposition deputies told the media on 21 December that they will challenge the laws in the Constitutional Court. Jiri Pehe , RFE/RL, Inc. MECIAR ADDRESSES FOREIGN DIPLOMATS. During a meeting with foreign diplomats in Bratislava on 21 December, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar said the development of democracy, the continuation of reforms, privatization, the protection of human rights, and membership in the European Union and NATO are among his administration's priorities. He stressed that privatization in Slovakia, including the voucher scheme, will continue. Meciar also noted that Russia's position must be considered during an expansion of NATO: "Russia remains an important factor in international relations and could perceive [the process of NATO expansion] as its exclusion from the system of collective European security." Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. SLOVAKIA'S HUNGARIAN LEADER FORESEES CIVIC DISOBEDIENCE. In an interview with Uj Szo on 22 December, Miklos Duray, chairman of the Coexistence movement, said the first steps taken by the new Slovak government suggest "a totally new political orientation" is in the offing. "We have to be ready to stand up to militant linguistic and national ideas--if necessary, with the help of public disobedience," Duray noted. He singled out recent statements by Culture Minister Ivan Hudec on the protection of the official Slovak language, claiming such policies "would try the patience of Slovak citizens of Hungarian origin living in the south of Slovakia." Duray also said the adoption of a law on the protection of the Slovak language is unnecessary. "If the ruling coalition decides to adopt such a law, we will have to appeal abroad, like during the communist period," he remarked. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING RECENT HUNGARIAN HISTORY ABOLISHED. According to Radio Budapest on 22 December, the Historical Investigation Committee, established by the previous Hungarian government to examine the country's recent history, has been abolished by the present socialist-liberal government. The head of the committee, Frigyes Kahler, learned from the media that all investigations were to be stopped. The role of the committee was considered very important because of the blatant omissions in history books written under communism. The investigations, however, may have proved uncomfortable for some politicians who were returned to power in the spring 1994 elections. Judith Pataki, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PARLIAMENT MARKS REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY AMID PROTESTS. A joint session of Romania's parliament on 21 December marked the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of the communist regime, Radio Bucharest reported that day. Members of organizations representing participants in the revolution attended the session and were invited to address the parliament. Several said the revolutionaries' ideals had been betrayed. Adrian Dumitrescu, president of the "21 December" Bucharest Association, said that five years after the revolution, "we still do not know who shot at us then" and that "the truth will not be revealed as long as we have the present parliamentary majority." The "21 December" Association later commemorated the events in a separate ceremony in Bucharest and released a nine-point declaration accusing the country's rulers of having impoverished the country in order to better control it. The declaration also accused the opposition of inefficiency and of being torn by conflicts. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN PRESIDENT ON REVOLUTION ANNIVERSARY. In a nationwide television address on 21 December, Ion Iliescu said Romania's revolution was a genuine social explosion, with a "true popular and national character." Since 1989, he said, Romania has traveled a long road of genuine change that nobody can deny. But he stressed that no revolution can change living conditions overnight and that the road ahead was still difficult. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. EXTREME NATIONALIST PARTY EXPELS DISSENTER. Cornel Brahas, the former vice president of the Party of Romanian National Unity, has been expelled from the party, the chairman of the Bucharest branch of the PRNU announced at a press conference on 21 December. Brahas had criticized the leadership of the PRNU and particularly its president, Gheorghe Funar, and vice president, Ioan Gavra. Reporting on the press conference, Radio Bucharest said the Bucharest branch of the PRNU accused Brahas, among other things, of misuse of party's funds. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. ROMANIAN SOCIALISTS WELCOME BULGARIAN ELECTION OUTCOME. The Socialist Labor Party, the heir to the defunct Romanian Communist Party, has welcomed the victory of the Bulgarian Socialist Party in parliamentary elections held earlier this week. SLP President Ilie Verdet told Reuters on 21 December that his party was "naturally pleased" with the election results. He said these showed that market reforms had failed and would spur a revival of the Left in Eastern Europe. Michael Shafir, RFE/RL, Inc. BULGARIA'S UDF IN TURMOIL. Following the election defeat of the Union of Democratic Forces in the 18 December Bulgarian parliamentary elections, the leadership of the anticommunist coalition stepped down on 21 December, Reuters reported the same day. Official preliminary election results give the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the former Communists) about 125 seats in the 240-member parliament; the UDF won only 68 seats. The five members of the UDF's Coordinating Committee, whose mandate expired on 21 December, told journalists they had decided not to run again. Former Prime Minister and UDF chairman Philip Dimitrov said it was better for the UDF to elect a new leadership because of the new conditions. "Unfortunately," he said, "Bulgaria could not break the chain of the return of communist parties in former communist countries." The UDF leadership election will be held on 29 December. Jiri Pehe, RFE/RL, Inc. ALBANIAN ENERGY CRISIS. Albania on 21 December received pledges from Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey of electricity supplies to alleviate its energy crisis, Reuters reported the same day. The crisis began last weekend when the Albanian government decreed emergency power cuts in response to the worst drought in 100 years. Output is down significantly at Albania's hydro-electric dams, which are the main suppliers to the country's grid. Power has been cut to private households as well as to industry, including cement, ferrochromium, and steel plants. The Albanian government warned private, wood-fueled bakeries not to exploit the crisis for personal gain while the state-owned, electricity-driven facilities are unable to operate. Long lines for bread, selling at almost double the usual price, were evident in Tirana on 21 December. Jan Cleave, RFE/RL, Inc. KUCHMA ORDERS CONTROLS ON UKRAINIAN SUPPORTERS OF CHECHNYA. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has ordered Ukraine's security services to prevent Ukrainian citizens supporting Chechnya from taking part in the republic's military conflict, according to ITAR-TASS on 21 December. Russian media reported earlier in the week that Ukrainian nationalists are fighting on the side of Chechen President Dzhokhar Dudayev. Kuchma also said Ukraine believes that the Chechen conflict must be solved "within the context of the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation." But at the same time, he noted that "we are deeply concerned about the escalation of the conflict and the civilian casualties, among whom there may also be Ukrainian citizens." Victor Yasmann, RFE/RL, Inc. [As of 12:00 CET] (Compiled by Penny Morvant and Jan Cleave) The RFE/RL DAILY REPORT, 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, is available through electronic mail by subscribing to RFERL-L at LISTSERV@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU Inquiries about specific news items should be directed as follows (please include your full postal address when inquiring about subscriptions): Mr. Brian Reed RFE/RL, Inc. 1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20036 Telephone: (202) 457-6912 Fax: (202) 457-6992 Internet: REEDB@RFERL.ORG Copyright 1994, RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved.
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