|The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it. - Franklin P. Jones|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 182, Part I, 17 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 182, Part I, 17 September 1999 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part I, a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Part II covers Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYS RUSSIA ISN'T LOST * ST. PETE EXPLOSION LABELED JUST ORDINARY POLITICAL VIOLENCE * KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN DELIVERS HUMANITARIAN AID TO FUGITIVES IN SOUTH END NOTE: AMBIGUOUS ANNIVERSARY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE SAYS RUSSIA ISN'T LOST... Addressing an audience at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington on the U.S.'s policy towards Russia, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright argued that "The suggestion made by some that Russia is ours to lose is arrogant; the suggestion that Russia is lost is simply wrong." She added that she doesn't agree with the view of some that the task of transforming Russia into a functioning pluralist society is "hopeless," but agreed that it is "Herculean." She urged "President [Boris] Yeltsin's government" to make fighting corruption a "priority" and dismissed as "fantasies" the beliefs of some Russian officials that the furor over corruption stems from "a desire by the West to embarrass Moscow or to electoral politics here in the U.S." JAC ...AND PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR CONTINUED AID. Albright defended U.S. aid programs, saying that they are designed to support "good people doing the right things." She called Congress- proposed cuts of 25-30 percent in U.S. assistance to Russia and other newly independent states "unacceptable," in part because "most bilateral assistance supports nonproliferation." On the issue of aid that might have been embezzled, she noted investigation of the issue is continuing, but "we are obviously more than concerned--in fact, outraged--if some of these allegations are true." JAC RUSSIAN OFFICIALS TO SEEK PROOF IN MONEY LAUNDERING CASE... The Russian State Duma will send a delegation to attend hearings in the U.S. Congress on the laundering of Russian money through the Bank of New York scheduled for 21 and 22 September, Interfax reported on 16 September. The announcement of the Duma's plans accompanies complaints by Viktor Ivanov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service, on the same day that U.S. law enforcement officials have not provided "any documents that could confirm reports on the Bank of New York case, which are extensively circulated by the U.S. mass media." Interpol's British Secretary-General Raymond Kendall told Reuters the same day that the money laundering scheme was the biggest his agency has ever seen; however, he also noted that "it is interesting that we haven't yet seen any proof of illegal activity." JAC ...WHILE CONTINUING TO ASSERT SCANDAL MANUFACTURED. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 16 September accused some Western publications of engaging in a campaign to "spoil Russia's image," commenting that this casts "a shadow over Russia and violates its bilateral relations with other countries." Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov sounded a similar note, saying that allegations in the Bank of New York scheme are part of a campaign to discredit Russia. Former Economics Minister and Duma deputy Aleksandr Shokhin speculated in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 September that the scandal was "ordered" in part because the fiscal year in the U.S. ends on 30 September and "this scandal is a form of pressure on Russia to squeeze something out of the debtors or at least try to prove the innocence of Western companies to their shareholders," since Russia is "a gangster state, and that is why fund managers lost so much money." JAC IMF DISMISSES SKURATOV ALLEGATIONS... An unidentified senior IMF official dismissed as "nothing new" accusations by former Prosecutor-General Yurii Skuratov that Russia's Central Bank sold $3.9 billion from an account to where IMF loan monies had been deposited to a small group of Russian banks, AFP reported on 16 September. Skuratov claimed that this money was then used by these banks to convert their GKOs into dollars just before the mid August 1998 devaluation of the ruble. According to the agency, the official said that "in 1998 and before, the Russian Central Bank had been intervening in exchange markets, which is legal and is done other places." However, the official added that the IMF is awaiting further clarification about how the bank manages its reserves. The previous day, an official with the Russian Audit Chamber told Reuters that their investigation revealed no illegal use of the IMF funds by the Central Bank. JAC ...AS SKURATOV'S SWISS TRAVEL PLANS SCUTTLED AGAIN. Meanwhile, Skuratov's plans to travel to Switzerland over the weekend to meet with Swiss Attorney General Carla del Ponte were canceled when the Swiss embassy in Moscow did not provide him with a visa, "The Moscow Times" reported on 17 September. Skuratov's plans to visit Switzerland in May were also scrapped when his newly issued passport was canceled by Russian authorities. Earlier this month, Skuratov's apartment and dacha were searched by Russian law enforcement officials (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 September 1999). JAC RUSSIA WARNS U.S. CONGRESS OVER IRAN BILL. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on 16 September calling the legislation adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on 14 September "openly anti-Russian" and warning that the legislation "could influence in the most negative way Russian-American cooperation in the area of non-proliferation and export controls." The ministry threatened that if the bill became law "it will be necessary for us to re-assess the entire situation concerning Russian-American cooperation on non-proliferation issues, as well as on a range of other military-political issues that stand at the core of our joint efforts to ensure a strategic balance and international stability." The legislation in question would impose either economic sanctions or suspend military aid to countries that help Iran build nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The next round of U.S.-Russian negotiations on the ABM and START-III treaties was scheduled to begin on 17 September. JAC ST. PETE EXPLOSION LABELLED JUST ORDINARY POLITICAL VIOLENCE... An explosion in an apartment block in St. Petersburg on 17 September triggered fears that a new terrorist bombing following the previous day's explosion in Volgodonsk had occurred. However, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo declared that the blast--which killed at least two people--was "definitely not connected" with recent terrorist acts. He noted that the editor-in-chief of a St. Petersburg newspaper lived in that apartment building and he may have been the intended target of the blast, according to Interfax. JAC ...AS DEATH TOLL IN VOLGODONSK RISES. The number of dead from the 16 September apartment blast has risen to 17, according to the Rostov Oblast's web site (http://www.rostov.ru). Three persons remain unidentified. The power of the blast measured 100-150 kilograms of TNT, Interfax reported on 16 September. JAC YELTSIN SUGGESTS STROEV WAS MISQUOTED. Presidential spokesman Dmitrii Yakushkin said on 17 September that the statement by Federation Council chairman Yegor Stroev in "The New York Times" the previous day that President Yeltsin's resignation would benefit the country was a "misunderstanding" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). The same day, the upper legislative chamber rejected a proposal to put an appeal to Yeltsin to resign before the end of his term on the chamber's agenda. Sixty senators supported the proposal-- thirty less than necessary, according to Reuters. "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 17 September, referring only to unnamed Kremlin sources, that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may soon challenge the Kremlin by insisting on the dismissal of First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko and Fuel Minister Viktor Kalyuzhnii. According to the daily, which is close to Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, Putin was angered over these officials' handling of management issues at the energy pipeline company Transneft (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 September.) JAC NAZDRATENKO CONTINUES PRESS PRESSURE. A newspaper that has recently published several articles critical of Primorskii Krai Governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko was abruptly informed that it must vacate its new offices within a week, according to "EWI's Russian Regional Report" on 16 September. With a print run of 40,000, the newspaper, "Moskovskii Komsomolets v Vladivostoke," is one of the most popular newspapers in the region, according to the publication. Other media outlets in the krai have also been subject to pressure including independent Radio Lemma, which in July also received an eviction notice and had its electricity cut off. JAC IVANOV SAYS GENERALS MUST NOT MAKE POLICY STATEMENTS. Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov told Interfax on 16 September that a warning by Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov that Russia may withdraw its troops from Kosova "should be taken with a large pinch of salt," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Ivanov stressed that "only the president, the prime minister, and the foreign minister can make foreign policy statements." Ivanov, however, warned that "the formation of a paramilitary agency under any name can only make political settlement more difficult." He was referring to the planned Kosovo Corps. FS NATO AND RUSSIA AGREE ON KEY ISSUES OVER KOSOVA. Russia's permanent representative to NATO, Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, told ITAR-TASS on 16 September in Brussels that NATO and Russian diplomats agreed the previous day that it is necessary to demilitarize the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) by 19 September. He added that both sides also agree that Russian peacekeepers must be deployed in the town of Rahovec (see Part II). He added that NATO and the Russians are "continuing to work on this problem," but did not elaborate. FS RUSSIAN POLITICIANS PROPOSE PLANS TO CONTAIN CHECHEN THREAT. Former Premier Sergei Stepashin told NTV on 16 September that Moscow should impose political, economic, and military sanctions on Chechnya if Grozny fails to extradite the persons responsible for the terrorist bombings in Buynaksk, Moscow, and Volgodonsk, ITAR-TASS reported. (Daghestani officials claim to have already apprehended several persons responsible for the Buynaksk bomb.) State Duma deputy and former Russian Border Troops commander Andrei Nikolaev called for the establishment of a 5-15 kilometer demilitarized zone along Chechnya's borders with other federation subjects. State Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev argued that Russian troops have the right to annihilate guerrillas on Chechen territory, according to Interfax. He added that Moscow should ignore European pressure to abolish capital punishment and sentence the guerrilla leaders to death. LF CHECHEN OFFICIALS, BEREZOVSKII SAY PHONE TRANSCRIPT FABRICATED. Former Chechen Foreign Minister Movladi Udugov said on 16 September that the alleged tape of conversations held between himself, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev, and oligarch Boris Berezovskii is a forgery, Turan reported. NTV broadcast that conversation on 15 September, in which Berezovskii discussed with the two Chechens cash payments for measures to destabilize the North Caucasus. Makhashev also denied that the tape was genuine, adding that he is not so stupid as to discuss such matters over the telephone, according to ITAR-TASS. Berezovskii too has denied the authenticity of that conversation and intends to sue "Moskovkii Komsomolets," which published a transcript of it, according to "Izvestiya" on 17 September. LF CHECHENS PROTEST ONGOING RUSSIAN AIR STRIKES. Over 25,000 people gathered in Grozny on 16 September to protest the ongoing Russian air strikes against dozens of towns and villages in southern Chechnya, Interfax reported. President Aslan Maskhadov said that over 200 people have been killed in those raids, which Russian air force commander Anatolii Kornukov told ITAR-TASS on 16 September are directed solely at guerrilla bases. Maskhadov again denied any Chechen participation in terrorist bomb attacks in Russian cities, according to Interfax. He claimed that "Chechnya has become a card in the hands" of unnamed world powers that aim to oust Russia from the Caucasus. LF PUTIN GIVES ORDERS FOR OIL PIPELINE BYPASSING CHECHNYA. Prime Minister Putin told Fuel and Energy Minister Kalyuzhnii at a cabinet meeting on 16 September to draft plans for an oil pipeline bypassing Chechnya, Interfax reported. The Russian government gave the go-ahead for construction of such a pipeline in late 1997, intending to have it completed by late 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 September 1997). LF CHERKESS, ABAZINS VOTE FOR AUTONOMY. At an extraordinary congress on 16 September of organizations representing the Cherkess, Abazin, and some Russian and Cossack communities of the Republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, the 900 delegates voted in favor of the restoration of the Cherkess Autonomous Oblast as part of neighboring Stavropol Krai, Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. That move was taken to protest the 14 September inauguration as the republic's president of Karachai Vladimir Semenov, whose 16 May election victory against Cherkess Stanislav Derev is seen as invalid by the Cherkess population. The congress named Derev to head the new autonomous formation and charged him with forming its government, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 September. Also on 16 September, a group of Derev's supporters blocked the main highway from Cherkessk, the republic's capital, to Stavropol to demand Semenov's resignation. Semenov told Interfax in Moscow in 16 September after talks with Prime Minister Putin the previous evening that Moscow recognizes him as the republic's legitimate president. LF TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA OSCE CHAIRMAN-IN-OFFICE VISITS YEREVAN. On the first leg of a tour of the South Caucasus originally scheduled for April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 1999), Knut Vollebaek held talks in Yerevan on 16 September with President Robert Kocharian, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, parliament deputy chairman Ruben Mirzoyan, and Arkadii Ghukasian, president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Noyan Tapan reported. At a press conference after those meetings, Vollebaek expressed approval of the recent direct talks between Kocharian and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Heidar Aliev, saying that the Minsk Group and the OSCE are ready to rejoin the negotiating process, in which, he added, representatives of Karabakh should also be included. He suggested that there is no need for a new draft peace plan for Karabakh, given that previous Minsk Group initiatives are still on the table. Vollebaek also greeted Oskanian's announcement that Armenia is releasing three Azerbaijani prisoners of war as a gesture of good will. LF ARMENIA, IMF REACH AGREEMENT. Armenian Finance Minister Levon Barkhudarian said on 16 September that the Armenian government and the IMF have reached agreement on the terms of the release of a vital new $28 million loan tranche, which will almost certainly be made available by the end of 1999, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. That agreement also paves the way for disbursement of a $25 million World Bank loan to cover Armenia's budget deficit. Originally expected in June, the IMF and World Bank loan tranches were frozen due to a higher-than-projected budget deficit. The Armenian parliament last month approved the government's package of austerity measures aimed at reducing that deficit (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 August 1999). The freezing of the funds has led to widespread wage arrears in the public sector. Barkhudarian said the government will pay all back salaries and pensions by mid-October provided that the World Bank makes the money available. LF PACE PRESIDENT IN GEORGIA. Lord Russell Johnston, head of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, held talks in Tbilisi on 14 September with Georgian Minister of State Vazha Lortkipanidze and President Eduard Shevardnadze, Caucasus Press reported. Those talks focused on the prospects for the admission of Armenia and Azerbaijan to full membership of the Council of Europe, the possibility of Georgian mediation in the Karabakh conflict, and the situation in the North Caucasus. Shevardnadze argued that Armenia and Azerbaijan should be admitted simultaneously to full membership of the Council of Europe. Shevardnadze emphasized the importance of the planned meeting under the aegis of the U.S. of the prime ministers of the three South Caucasus states, adding that Russia, Turkey and the OSCE may also be invited to send representatives, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 September. The meeting is to focus on the security problems in the South Caucasus. LF JOURNALISTS CALL FOR MORE KAZAKH-LANGUAGE BROADCASTING. Union of Journalists of Kazakhstan chairman Kamal Smailov told a press conference in Almaty on 15 September that of the 150 hours of programming broadcast weekly by the electronic media, only 10 percent is in Kazakh, RFE/RL's bureau in the former capital reported. The Law on the State Languages requires that a minimum of 50 percent of all broadcasts should be in the Kazakh language. LF ANOTHER CACHE OF EXPLOSIVES DISCOVERED IN KAZAKHSTAN. Security officials have discovered 1.5 tons of the explosive ammonal, together with 190 electric detonators, in a warehouse in a town near Almaty, Interfax reported on 16 September. In late August, police found grenades, detonators and two explosive devices in an abandoned garage in Astana (see RFE/RL Newsline," 31 August 1999). LF KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL AIDES DENY GERMAN MEDIA REPORT. Two aides to Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Akaev on 16 September said a report in the Berlin daily "Der Tagesspiegel" that Akaev may return to academic work rather than contend next year's presidential poll is incorrect and based on a misunderstanding, Reuters and RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 1999). Presidential press spokesman Kanybek Imanaliev explained that in referring to "elections of a new president" in 2000, Akaev had not excluded the possibility that he would run himself. Presidential aide Gulnara Myrzhambetova said that the Constitutional Court ruled in 1998 that Akaev had been elected president of Kyrgyzstan only once (in December 1995) since the adoption of the present constitution in May 1993, and may therefore seek re-election for a second term. Akaev was first elected president in October 1991. The 1993 constitution bans one individual from serving three consecutive terms. LF KYRGYZ OPPOSITION POLITICIAN DELIVERS HUMANITARIAN AID TO FUGITIVES IN SOUTH. Former Bishkek mayor Feliks Kulov, the most authoritative potential challenger to Akaev in next year's presidential poll, on 16 September delivered food, clothing, and medication worth some $5,000 to villagers who fled their homes in Batken Raion to escape from the Uzbek guerrillas who entered the region in August and took hostages, RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau reported. Kulov publicly blamed the National Security Ministry, which he headed from 1996 to March 1998, for the hostage crisis. LF IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER ENDS VISIT TO TAJIKISTAN. Visiting Dushanbe on 13-15 September, Kamal Kharrazi met with his Tajik counterpart, Talbak Nazarov, President Imomali Rakhmonov, and Prime Minister Yahyo Azimov to discuss expanding bilateral relations, in particular economic cooperation, and the civil war in Afghanistan, which they agreed should be resolved through further meetings of the so- called "Six Plus Two" group under the aegis of the UN, Asia Plus-Blitz reported. Kharrazi also discussed the situation in Afghanistan with that country's ousted president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who likewise called for a new meeting as soon as possible of the "Six Plus Two" group," Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 17 September. Kharrazi and United Tajik Opposition (UTO) leader Said Abdullo Nuri discussed the possible participation of both Iran and Tajikistan in securing the release of the four Japanese geologists held hostage in Kyrgyzstan by ethnic Uzbek guerrillas, according to ITAR-TASS. Nuri said the UTO has already sent representatives at Kyrgyzstan's request to try to mediate with the guerrillas. LF END NOTE AMBIGUOUS ANNIVERSARY by Jan Maksymiuk Poland marks the 60th anniversary of the Soviet invasion today. While Polish armies were involved in an unequal but heroic fight against Nazi Germany, some 600,000 Soviet troops moved into Poland on 17 September 1939. The 25 border guard and police units in eastern Poland were no match for the Soviet forces. On 25 September, German and Soviet troops met along the length of the demarcation line that had been determined in a secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939. Three days later, Berlin and Moscow signed a friendship and border treaty erasing Poland from the map of Europe for almost six years. The Soviet annexation of eastern Poland was presented by Moscow as the "liberation of Belarusian and Ukrainian brothers from the oppression of Polish landlords." Eyewitness accounts testify that most Belarusians and Ukrainians greeted the Soviet troops as friends, if not liberators, and promptly cooperated in organizing a Soviet system of power. "Popular assemblies" of western Belarus and western Ukraine were swiftly elected in October 1939 and requested the unification of the newly conquered areas with the Belarusian SSR and Ukrainian SSR, in particular, and with the USSR in general. Historians have cited many reasons for this Belarusian and Ukrainian attitude toward the Soviet invasion. Two appear especially persuasive. First, pre-war Poland--which experienced a measure of democracy during its initial years of independence but became an authoritarian state following Jozef Pilsudski's coup d'etat in May 1926--did not develop a policy toward its ethnic minorities that those minorities, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the country's population, found acceptable. Belarusians and Ukrainians were especially treated by the state as second-rate citizens in terms of their civil rights. In Poland's "eastern outlands" (kresy wschodnie, the name applied to eastern parts of pre-war Poland), economic, social, and ethnic inequality and injustice were widespread. Second, Belarusians and Ukrainians suffered under the delusion--skillfully promoted by Soviet propaganda at the time--that Soviet Belarus and Soviet Ukraine embodied the national statehood that they so intensely desired. The Polish-Soviet border was hermetically sealed, as a result of which Polish Belarusians and Ukrainians were completely unfamiliar with the real state of affairs in the Soviet Union (as, incidentally, was the rest of Europe). Therefore, even anti-Communists among Belarusian and Ukrainian political circles in pre-war Poland generally welcomed the unification of all Belarusian and Ukrainian ethnic territories as an "act of historical justice." Some 20 months later, when Hitler's armies invaded the Soviet Union, many people in western Belarus and Ukraine who had greeted Stalin's soldiers were now somewhat inclined to welcome the Germans as the "liberator." From September 1939 to June 1941, Stalin's persecution machine was used against not only "Polish landlords" but also their allegedly liberated victims: Belarusian and Ukrainian peasants. The legendary communist paradise proved a socio-economic hell for those hapless "brothers" of the Soviet Union. The 1945 Yalta Conference endorsed the Polish-Soviet border foreseen by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (with some post-war corrections), leaving Poland without its former "eastern outlands." For more than 40 years, the official Soviet interpretation of the 17 September 1939 military operation as the "liberation of the oppressed" prevailed in Poland's communist historiography. Only after Solidarity took over in 1989 were Polish historians able to openly identify the invasion by its proper name. Belarusian and Ukrainian historians, or at least those who have renounced the Soviet historiography tradition, offer interpretations of the significance of the 17 September anniversary that are more ambiguous. The notion of "liberation" appears to be gradually disappearing from their versions. However, there is hardly any historian in Belarus and Ukraine who would take issue with the argument that the Soviet invasion against Poland 60 years ago was "positive" for their nations in so far as it unified formerly divided nations into one political organism. That organism collapsed in 1991 and gave birth to two independent states--Belarus and Ukraine. At a recent conference of Belarusian historians in Minsk, one delegate spoke for many when he argued that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its territorial consequences cannot be viewed as separate from the Polish-Bolshevik Treaty of Riga in 1921. Under that treaty, Warsaw and Moscow arbitrarily carved up between themselves Belarusian and Ukrainian ethnic territories without taking into account the interests of the indigenous people who inhabited them. According to this line of argument, the Soviet Union in 1939- -even in the role of an aggressor--ensured that justice was done by bringing Belarusians and Ukrainians together. Whether Polish historians will accept such a viewpoint remains to be seen. Currently, the differing attitudes toward the Soviet invasion 60 years ago are reflected in the planned official commemorations of the anniversary. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has visited sites in Russia and Ukraine of the mass murders of Polish officers taken prisoner by Soviet troops in 1939. Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka will preside over official events in his country marking the 60th anniversary of the reunification of Belarus. And Lviv in Ukraine will host a congress of anti-Communists from Eastern Europe who will discuss Soviet repression in the 1930s and early 1940s. When history serves different policies, a single historical interpretation is the exception rather than the rule. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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