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RFE/RL Review June 24, 2005

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The Best of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Reporting
June 18-24, 2005

RFE/RL FOLLOWS FATE OF FLEEING CHECHEN VILLAGE RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service broke news of a brutal raid by Russian forces on a Chechen village on June 4 that so terrorized the villagers, the entire community of several hundred people packed up their belongings and fled to the neighboring Russian Federal Republic of Daghestan. RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, which broadcasts in the Chechen language to Chechnya and in the Avar language to Daghestan, covered the story on both sides of the border.
RFE/RL's Chechen correspondent was in Borozdinovskaya on June 5, one day after special security forces belonging to the Russian army swept through, killing a 77-year-old man, abducting 11 young men and setting several houses on fire. The 11 males remain missing and unaccounted for ( The villagers, still in shock, told the correspondent that several cars drove up and heavily armed soldiers, wearing the insignia of the special security Eastern (Vostok) Battalion of the Russian army jumped out and began rounding up residents. Sulim Yamadayev, commander of the Eastern Battalion denied that his troops were responsible. But one of the villagers told RFE/RL: "They (Russian investigators) asked us 'Do you have any witnesses who saw the raid? Yes, we have many witnesses and four of them even pointed at Yamadayev."
After the attack, hundreds of residents loaded their possessions on trucks, left the village and set up a tent camp in a field several hundred meters on either side of the border between Chechnya and Daghestan. Daghestani authorities have not been welcoming and so far not granted asylum to the newcomers, although they are ethnic Avars, the largest ethnic group in Daghestan. RFE/RL's Daghestan correspondent visited the camp and spoke to a woman from Borozdinovskaya, who said Daghestani authorities have asked the villagers to hire lawyers: "We were told to hire lawyers. Are we now, with our grief, supposed to hire a lawyer and pay him just to prove that our children are innocent and that they are not militants?" she said.
RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service is broadcasting daily updates on their situation and a growing controversy on the political level about the special security troops. In a June 23 broadcast, the service reported that Vladimir Kalita, deputy military prosecutor for the United Army Group in the North Caucasus, said 30 of his subordinates are engaged in investigating the circumstances of the Borozdinovskaya sweep operation. He said weapons have been confiscated from members of the Eastern Battalion, and that all Borozdinovskaya residents, including children, will be questioned. On June 24, Chechen First Deputy Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov alleged that the Borozdinovskaya raid was intended to create hostility between the people of Chechnya and Daghestan. Kadyrov's own security forces, popularly known as "Kadyrovtsi," have carried out raids in Daghestan in recent months, compounding tensions between the two republics (
More English-language reports on events in the North Caucasus can be found on the RFE/RL website, at

** The Director of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service, Aslan Doukaev, may be reached by email at <>.

GEORGIAN SERVICE GETS FIRST INTERVIEW WITH PEACEKEEPER IN IRAQ... RFE/RL's Georgian Service broadcast a 10-minute interview on June 22 with a Georgian officer serving in Iraq -- the first interview of a senior Georgian serviceman in Iraq to be broadcast on a Georgian language radio ( The telephone interview was with Captain Giorgi Shengelia, commander of the 850-strong Georgian peacekeeping contingent. Capt. Shengelia told RFE/RL correspondent Koba Liklikadze about the life of Georgian servicemen in Iraq, who are in charge of controlling checkpoints at the so-called "Green Zone" in Baghdad.
Asked about his toughest experience in Iraq so far, Shengelia spoke about an incident in May in which a friend and fellow officer, platoon commander Mikheil Kutateladze, was seriously wounded when a car he was riding in with American servicemen, en route from Baghdad to Baquba, hit a homemade mine. Three American servicemen died and Kutateladze was hospitalized with multiple injuries -- his hand was amputated and he lost one eye. Kutateladze was flown to the U.S. and is currently undergoing treatment at a U.S. military hospital. Shengelia in the interview wished Kutateladze well and cited him as an example of courage and bravery.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>.

...TALKS TO DEFENSE MINISTER VISITING WASHINGTON The RFE/RL Georgian Service correspondent had learned of Kutateladze's case in another interview, conducted by phone with Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili, who was in Washington on June 18 for talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to discuss ways of increasing military cooperation between the two countries ( The United States expressed its readiness to assist the Georgian authorities in achieving a peaceful settlement of the South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflicts. During the interview, Okruashvili also told RFE/RL correspondent Koba Liklikadze about his visit to see wounded Georgian soldier Mikheil Kutateladze.

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, David Kakabadze, may be reached by email at <>.

TATAR-BASHKIR SERVICE LAUNCHES KAZAN MILLENNIUM COVERAGE Starting the week of June 20, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service broadcast a series of special programs on the millennium of Kazan, the capital of the Russian Federation's Tatarstan Autonomous Republic. The official start of festivities marking the city's 1,000th anniversary was the June 24 re-opening of the Qol Sharif Mosque, the largest mosque in Russia ( The celebrations will culminate at the end of August with international summitry and a millennium celebration.
The service also reported on the launch of millennium events with a visit of a United Nations-Habitat mission, led by its executive director Daniel Biau, followed by a week-long convention of the World Heritage Cities Organization from June 22- June 27. Some 400 representatives from 51 countries arrived in Kazan to take part, including Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Council of Europe Deputy Secretary General Gabriela Battaini-Dragoni, World Heritage Cities Organization Secretary General Denis Ricard, and Islamic Capital and Cities Organization Secretary General Abdallah Kadi.
As a prelude to the June 24 opening prayers at the Qol Sharif Mosque, RFE/RL covered a Quran-reading contest held at the mosque June 21. Most contestants came from Tatarstan, but some participants traveled from the Caucasus and other parts of Russia, as well as Ukraine and other countries in Central Asia. The prize for the best reading went to a student from Uzbekistan, while a contestant from the Russian city of Naberezhniye Chelny won for the best recitation of the Quran from memory.
The Tatar-Bashkir Service's June 23 broadcast included interviews with scholars on the history of Qol Sharif. The mosque, named after Imam Seid Qol Sharif, who defended Kazan against the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible, was built on the model of a legendary, 16th century eight-minaret mosque that was destroyed by invading Russian conquerors in 1552. Its reconstruction began in 1995, at the initiative of Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev. RFE/RL interviewed historian and Tatarstan Writers' Union member Nurulla Gharif to get a sense of Qol Sharif's significance for Tatars today. According to Gharif: "Qol Sharif's name is written in golden letters in the history of the Tatars. When we speak about Qol Sharif, we imagine a person that was talented and devoted his life to the freedom of his people. He was a poet, a diplomat and a religious person, one of the most famous people of Kazan."
RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service had three correspondents at the opening ceremony June 24, mingling with more than 5,000 invited guests. The mosque is two-tiered, with an upper level for prayers and a lower level for a museum of culture and a library. Its central dome stands nearly 40 meters high (
The millennium celebrations culminate with a series of events in late August, when presidents of former Soviet republics, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, are to assemble in Kazan for the summit conference of heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Official millennium celebrations are set for August 29-30.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service, Ferit Agi, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE IRAQ TRAVELS WITH PRIME MINISTER TO BRUSSELS, WASHINGTON Radio Free Iraq Baghdad correspondent Akhmed Al-Zubaydi was one of four journalists who traveled with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari, first to Brussels and then to Washington for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush. It was the first time a media entourage -- RFI's Al- Zubaydi and three TV crews -- accompanied the Prime Minister. There were some glitches on the way, however.
Al-Zubaydi was included on the trip to cover a major story for Radio Free Iraq -- the one-day international conference of senior-level officials from 80 countries in Brussels June 22, to discuss Iraq's future. However, due to an administrative oversight, none of the four journalists -- including Al-Zubaydi -- were allowed into the conference hall. RFE/RL's Central News correspondent, reporting from Brussels for all language services, filled the gap with an account of Ja'fari's appeal for international support and the exhortations of other participants for transparency in the constitution drafting, as well as the need to include Iraq's major ethnic and religious groups in the process. RFE/RL English-language analysis of the conference, by Iraq analyst Kathleen Ridolfo, can be found at
In Washington, Al-Zubaydi reported Al-Ja'fari's statement on the eve of the White House talks that the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq remains vital for the political process (

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

MESSAGE OF NEW US AMBASSADOR ON RADIO FREE IRAQ RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reported, in a June 21 broadcast, the first speech to the people of Iraq of new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad. He spoke in Baghdad after presenting his credentials to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
Khalilzad outlined his goals as America's top diplomat in the country, saying: "I will support the efforts of the Iraqis to develop a unifying vision, a national compact [agreement]. This vision should be enshrined in an enlightened and sound constitution that embraces democracy, pluralism and individual rights. The process must be inclusive. For Iraq to achieve its full potential, no community or sector should be marginalized." Ambassador Khalilzad also said he is "horrified by the daily suffering of the Iraqi people," and that the foreign terrorists and hardline Ba'athist want Iraq to descend into civil war in order to regain control of the country. "They will fail," Khalilzad said.

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Iraq, Sergey Danilochkin, may be reached by email at <>.

BRITISH JOURNALIST TELLS RFE/RL: MLADIC IN BELGRADE RFE/RL's South Slavic & Albanian Languages Service (SSALS) got an exclusive interview on June 22 with London Sunday Times investigative journalist Tom Walker ( The interview made headlines throughout the region after Walker told RFE/RL that he suspected that wanted war criminal Ratko Mladic is living at home in Belgrade: "it's 90 percent certain that Mladic is in Belgrade, most probably at his house in the Kosutnjak area. Whether he is going to hand himself in it isn't easy to predict because of his rather delicate mental state. On the one hand, he is considering a financial deal, on the other he might contemplate a suicide option if the police turn up at his doorstep," Walker said. RFE/RL contacted Walker following the publication of his article in the June 19 Sunday Times, in which he said Mladic has struck a deal for 5 million dollars "compensation" if he gives himself up before the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia on July 11.
Asked to comment on these allegations, Serbian Justice Minister Zoran Stojkovic strongly denied the claims. Similarly, a spokesman for the Serbian government, Srdjan Djuric in an RFE/RL interview scoffed at the Sunday Times article and Serbian and Montenegro defense minister Prvoslav Davinic told RFE/RL that Serb authorities neither negotiated with Mladic nor have any clue on his whereabouts (
Walker reiterated in the RFE/RL interview that a deal with Mladic was "pretty much in place" by mid-June, but was likely negotiated without much direct involvement of the Serbian government. Walker pointed out that "what we have seen over the last few months in Serbia is that the new business community... wants to get this job done, because they see their best future of business opportunity in Serbia, which is on track for European Union accession. They've been active in previous hand-overs, for example of Nebojsa Pavkovic, former chief of the Yugoslav army staff," Walker said. Asked about sourcing, Walker told RFE/RL the information is credible, that "some of our sources are in the [Serb] government and also in the diplomatic community. In the negotiations, some foreign secret service elements are also involved, both the Russians and probably the Americans."
Walker continued: "the Serbian authorities deliberately have created a smoke screen, so that they couldn't track Mladic down. I am sure they've known for long time roughly where he is. There is reasonable evidence that suggests he has even been protected by a secret service circle of the army within Serbian army premises. The point is as to whether he can be arrested safely without large number of casualties being involved, because obviously he has a substantial network of body guards." Walker speculated it might be a little too soon to have Mladic in The Hague in time for the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on July 11th: "we could be looking, let's say, to August or even later in the year," Walker said.
The service's Belgrade bureau sent a correspondent to take a look at the house believed to be Mladic's home, located in a quiet residential part of Belgrade. A guard at the entrance denied him access, however.
The RFE/RL interview with the British journalist was front-page news in Serbia and throughout the Balkans on June 23, as well as in the region. All domestic radio and TV outlets featured the RFE/RL information on Mladic's whereabouts at the top of their news programs.

** The Director of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Omer Karabeg, may be reached by email at <>.

UZBEK SERVICE REPORTS FROM KYRGYZ REFUGEE CAMPS... Correspondents for RFE/RL's Uzbek Service focused all week on the fate of refugees who fled the May massacre in Andijon to safety in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, getting a series of exclusive interviews with people in the camps and with human rights representatives in Tashkent, Bishkek and Osh.
An RFE/RL correspondent in Osh gained an exclusive interview with Almamber Matubraimov, Kyrgyz presidential envoy in southern Kyrgyzstan, while a reporter in the Tashkent bureau spoke with UN representative for Uzbekistan Abdul Karim Gu about 29 refugees who were being kept in prison.
A Prague-based Uzbek Service broadcaster contacted the Kyrgyzstan program director for Freedom House, Stuart Khan, to get information on the number of refugees being threatened with forced return and what various NGOs are doing about it. The Uzbek government has asked Kyrgyzstan to return some 133 Uzbeks who are seeking refugee status in Kyrgyzstan, claiming they are common criminals. International human rights groups protested the forced return of four Uzbek refugees June 9, before their asylum requests had been examined. Khan told RFE/RL that the fate of the four deportees remains unknown (
RFE/RL's Osh correspondent was able to visit a nearby refugee camp several times, speaking to refugees fearful about their future and relatives left behind in the Andijon region.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service, Adolat Najimova, may be reached by email at <>.

...KYRGYZ SERVICE ON THE TRAIL OF REFUGEE DECISION-MAKERS RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service tackled the refugee issue from a different angle, speaking to Kyrgyz government officials involved in the response to Uzbek requests for the return of more than 100 refugees.
A Kyrgyz Service correspondent in Bishkek spoke June 23 to Sadyk Sherniyaz, deputy in the Office of the Kyrgyz Ombudsman, who said the decision to return the Uzbek refugees should not be made in haste and that "it would be in the interests of Kyrgyzstan to conduct a thorough investigation of every case with the participation of representatives of the international community." But some Uzbek officials disagreed, notably Kyrgyz Prosecutor General Azimbek Beknazarov. He called the 29 refugees taken out of the camps and being held in detention in a prison in Osh "common criminals" and said they will be handed back to Tashkent, in spite of international protest: "As soon as we finalize the additional checking, they will be sent back," he said (

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

RADIO FREE AFGHANISTAN TALKS TO EMBATTLED WARLORD... In addition to its coverage of the battle raging between U.S. and Afghan forces and Taliban guerrillas in southwestern Afghanistan (see below), RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan also focused on local infighting among warlords in the western province of Farah -- broadcasting a report that featured an interview from the battlefield.
A fire-fight broke out on June 21, when District Security Commander Sad Udin refused to surrender his weapons under the Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration Program. Troops loyal to the regional chief of Farah Province then tried to seize Udin's house.
RFA correspondent Sharafudin Stanikzai, based in the western province of Herat, was in phone contact with Sad Udin during the incident. Udin called Stanikzai from his home, to say he was surrounded by forces loyal to the Chief of the Purchaman District of Farah Province. Stanikzai reported that Sad Udin shouted into the phone: "They want to kill me, they want to kill me! Two hours later, Sad Udin was dead and Stanikzai's telephone call to him was answered by the men loyal to the Purchaman Chief, who said Udin had been killed in the fighting.
An in-depth report on the ongoing tragedy of warlordism in Afghanistan, that included the satellite phone conversation between Radio Free Afghanistan's Sharafudin Stanikzai and local commander Sad Udin, aired June 22.

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

...COVERS OPERATION AGAINST TALIBAN INSURGENTS... A Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in southern Afghanistan filed daily updates on the joint offensive by U.S. and Afghan forces against Taliban insurgents. In a report confirmed by the Afghan Interior Ministry, he said more than 100 Taliban insurgents were killed or captured during the week of June 20. An RFA correspondent in Kandahar has been sending reports on fighting in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, including a major battle that broke out when coalition forces surrounded a Taliban stronghold and a number of top Taliban commanders. Several of the commanders managed to escape into the mountains, however. RFA correspondents in neighboring Zabul province continue to follow the story.
A report in English on the battle, by Central News correspondent Ron Synovitz, can be read on Radio Free Afghanistan's website at

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

...CONTINUES UPDATES ON CHOLERA OUTBREAK Radio Free Afghanistan has provided extensive coverage of a cholera epidemic that broke out in Afghanistan in mid-June. The service has continued its in-depth reporting on the epidemic, with medical correspondents discussing the problems of hygiene, paths of infection, preventive measures and the progress of the outbreak, which flares up almost every year in Afghanistan in the summer months. Kabul and Prague-based broadcasters for Radio Free Afghanistan also interviewed UNICEF representatives in Afghanistan, officials of the Afghan Public Health Ministry, and doctors and staff in hospitals in Kabul, Jalalabad and Kandahar and reported on the progress of the disease in rural, as well as urban areas ( ,

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

AFGHAN MINISTERS VISIT RFE/RL IN PRAGUE A high-level group of Afghan Ministers and senior government advisers visited RFE/RL's broadcast operations center in Prague on June 22, where they participated in an hour-long roundtable discussion with Radio Free Afghanistan on Afghan trade and regional relations with Central Asian countries. Guests in the Prague studio included Hedayat Amin Arsala, Minister of Commerce and Senior Advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai; Mir Mohammad Sediq, Minister of Mines and Industries; and Abdurahman Ashraf, Presidential Advisor in Mines and Industries.
One of the topics discussed during the roundtable was a new natural gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan that is to pass through Afghanistan and Pakistan, on its way to India. The ministers also talked about security issues and trans-border security cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as security measures ahead of the Afghan parliamentary elections in September. The roundtable was conducted by both a Dari-speaking and a Pashto-speaking moderator, who questioned their guests extensively on the trade situation in Afghanistan; regional trade and business cooperation with Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and India; reconstruction and infrastructure projects; and the mining industry.

** The Acting Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Alexander Lukashuk, may be reached by email at <>.

KAZAKH SERVICE AT INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CENTRAL ASIA STABILITY RFE/RL's Kazakh Service sent a correspondent to cover an international conference in Almaty June 22-23 on stability in Central Asia and the Caucasus ( The conference, sponsored by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation and co-sponsored by the Kazakh political magazine "Eksklusiv", is an annual event attended by politicians and experts from Russia, the U.S., Iran, Turkey, China, Japan, and other East Asian countries. This is the first time it was held in Kazakhstan.
The service broadcast on June 22 and June 23 a series of exclusive interviews with conference participants. Sasakawa Peace Foundation advisor Lao Xin Yin said that "Japan has an interest in this region. It should help to create an environment that may provide stability in Central Asia." Boris Rumer, a Central Asia expert at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University expressed confidence in the stability of Kazakhstan's political structure. American University in Bishkek professor Muratbek Imanaliyev noted the political changes that had recently occurred in Kyrgyzstan and said the country's new order will be fully established after the July 10 presidential elections, when a new president will announce his political and economic program.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kazakh Service, Merhat Sharipzhan, may be reached by email at <>.

KYRGYZ SERVICE INTERVIEWS FORMER CANDIDATE IN KYRGYZ PRESIDENTIAL RACE RFE/RL's Bishkek correspondent was the first to get an interview with one of Kyrgyzstan's contenders for the presidency, who announced June 23 that he was dropping out of the race (; audio at
Businessman Jusupbek Sharipov, a former governor of Jalalabat region during the presidency of ousted leader Askar Akayev, told the Kyrgyz Service that he met with Kurmanbek Bakiev, interim head of state. Sharipov reported that, "Our discussion was a constructive and substantial one and I made sure for myself that we have common views on the main issues. In consideration of the destiny of the nation and the destiny of our younger generations, I made such a step [to withdraw from the presidential race]." Sharipov added that a factor in his decision was the recently announced cooperation deal between acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev and former security chief Feliks Kulov. Under their agreement, Kulov will become prime minister if Bakiev wins the presidential election. Sharipov said that announcement had helped stabilize the political situation in Kyrgyzstan and that he wanted to do his share in uniting the Kyrgyz nation by withdrawing from the race.
With Sharipov's announcement, six people, including interim President Kurmanbek Bakiev, remain in the running for the presidential election, set for July 10.

** The Director of RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, Tyntchtykbek Tchoroev, may be reached by email at <>.

BELARUSIAN SERVICE FOCUSES ATTENTION ON HUNGER STRIKERS RFE/RL's Belarusian Service has kept a spotlight on several hunger strikes by political prisoners in Belarus with almost daily reporting on the cases over the past several weeks. The number of hunger strikes has increased recently, as a last resort for advancing a variety of causes that are at times attracting international support (text and audio of a June 8 roundtable on the subject, in Belarusian, can be found at
The service reported on June 21 that the National Alliance youth organization petitioned the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry to ban Belarusian officials from the town of Zhodzina from visiting Ukraine. The petitioners were expressing solidarity with eleven youths on hunger strike in Zhodzina, in protest against the expulsion of a fellow high school student, allegedly for political reasons ( The hunger strikers were demanding reinstatement of the 16-year-old, who was arrested in Minsk in April for participating in a demonstration. The petition said students in ten countries support the young strikers. RFE/RL correspondents visited the young people several times in the apartment where they were holding their hunger strike, and interviewed their parents, classmates and teachers, as well as local authorities.
In another prominent case, RFE/RL informed listeners daily of the health of Belarusian prisoner of conscience Valery Levaneuski, who had to be placed in a prison infirmary on June 21, during the third week of his hunger strike. His son Uladzimir told RFE/RL that the hunger strike was in protest against the prison administration ( Levaneuski, leader of an association of Belarusian small traders and vendors, and his associate Alyaksandr Vasilyeu were sentenced last September to two year-terms each for libeling Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Another imprisoned, outspoken Lukashenka critic is Syarhey Skrabets, a former member of parliament who went on hunger strike May 17. He was arrested on May 15 in Minsk and taken to a pretrial detention center in Brest. Eight days later, he was charged with preparing to commit an offense and with offering a bribe. His wife Alyaksandra, told RFE/RL she has received a letter from her husband saying he had begun to drink juice after four weeks, but it was not clear what his state of health was (
The Belarusian Service coverage keeps listeners informed of the physical condition of the hunger strikers, illuminates conditions in prison with interviews with prison and government officials, as well as medical personnel and experts explaining what happens to the human body after extended food deprivation ( In unofficial "man on the street" polls, the service asked what people think of this means of pressure on the authorities (, interviewed defense lawyers of some of the prisoners and provided a historical review of well-known hunger strikes and what they achieved (

** The Acting Director of RFE/RL's Belarus Service, Bohdan Andrusyshyn, may be reached by email at <>.

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