Russia-Belarus Oil Row May Escalate To Cuts Again
Russia had briefly halted supplies to the two refineries in Belarus, Naftan and Mozyr, after the two sides failed to clinch a deal by New Year. Flows restarted on January 3.
Russian oil flows to Mozyr could be suspended again within 24 hours because oil firms are unwilling to confirm volumes due to the dragging pricing dispute, Russia's pipeline monopoly said.
"[Oil firms have] confirmed volumes for Mozyr for one day. Usually [oil firms] confirm volumes three days in advance," Transneft's spokesman Igor Dyomin told Reuters.
A source close to the refinery management dismissed Transneft's comments.
"That's not totally true. I won't tell you about the exact volumes, but it's not less than for a week", he told Reuters.
The spokesman for the operator of the world's biggest oil pipeline network said that the other refinery -- Naftan - had Russian oil supplies confirmed for a week.
He also assured that Russian crude deliveries through Belarus to Europe were safe.
"Transit supplies are continuing according to the initial schedule," he said.
Russia allowed Belarus to import oil last year at only 35.6 percent of the current crude export tariff.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said Belarus can now buy 6 million tons of Russian oil, for domestic needs only, duty-free.
But while Minsk argues all Russian oil should be duty-free, Moscow now wants payment in full for about 14.5 million tons a year of crude that is mostly refined and re-exported.
Russia has set its January oil export duty at $267 per ton. It will rise in February to $271-274.
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Iran Charges Dissident Rapper Toomaj Salehi With Spreading 'Corruption On Earth'
Iran’s judiciary has charged dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi with spreading “corruption on Earth,” a serious offense that could result in a death sentence in the Islamic republic.
Isfahan’s judicial chief, Asadollah Jafari, was quoted on November 27 as saying that Salehi faces other charges, including “propaganda activity against the establishment, forming an illegal group with the intention of disrupting the security of the country, cooperating with hostile governments, and spreading lies and inciting others to commit violence.”
A U.S.-based rights group said on November 26 that Toomaj Salehi's trial had begun "without a lawyer of his choice," and his family said his "life is at serious risk.”
But Jafari said no court session has been held so far for Salehi, who was arrested in late October after denouncing the clerical establishment and expressing support for the protests triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.
His detention came shortly after he told the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation: "You are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation...in order to keep its power, money and weapons."
State media then published a video purporting to show the rapper blindfolded and apologizing for his words. Family members and supporters accused the authorities of torturing Salehi in prison to force him to make a false confession.
Family members have expressed concern about Salehi’s health and the charges against him. Earlier this month, over 100 musicians, poets, artists, and activists called for his release.
Salehi, 32, gained notoriety for lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran. His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country’s leadership, accusing authorities of “suffocating” the people without regard for their well-being.
Last year, Salehi was arrested at his home after releasing several protest songs. A few days later, the rapper was released on bail amid widespread condemnation of his arrest by his supporters and by rights groups.
Salehi is among thousands, including protesters as well as journalists, lawyers, artists, athletes, activists and others arrested in Iran’s ongoing state crackdown on the antiestablishment protests that have rocked the country for the past two months. Iran's judiciary says more than 2,000 people have been charged since the start of the protests.
With reporting by AFP
At World Cup, U.S. Soccer Federation Scrubs Islamic Emblem From Iranian Flag
The U.S. soccer federation is displaying Iran's national flag on social media without the emblem of the Islamic republic, saying it supports protesters in Iran ahead of the two nations' World Cup match on November 29. The federation said in a statement on November 26 that it decided to forego the official flag on social media accounts to show “support for the women in Iran fighting for basic human rights.” The move comes as nationwide protests challenging Tehran's theocratic government continue in Iran. The Twitter account of the U.S. men's team displayed a banner with the squad's matches in the group stage, with the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colors. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
Russia Not Critically Weakened By War So Far, Estonian Minister Says
Estonia's Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur does not believe that Russia has been critically weakened, even after nine months of war in Ukraine. "We have to be honest and clear: The Russian Navy and Air Force are more or less as big as they were before the war," Pevkur told dpa during a visit to Berlin. Although the Russian land forces had lost considerable strength, they would "sooner rather than later" have the size they had before February 24 when they launched their offensive -- or even larger. Russia will also learn from its military experience in Ukraine, he argued: "We have no reason to believe that the threat from Russia is somehow reduced or that the threat to NATO is reduced."
Iran Bank Manager Reportedly Fired For Serving Unveiled Woman
An Iranian bank manager who served an unveiled woman has been fired, local media reported on November 27, as demonstrations triggered by the mandatory head-covering rule shake the Islamic republic. Women in the country of more than 80 million people are required to cover their heads, necks, and hair, a law enforced by the country's morality police. The September 16 death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, for allegedly breaching the dress code rules sparked nationwide demonstrations, which authorities call "riots.” Mehr news agency reported that the bank manager in Qom Province, near the capital, Tehran, "had provided bank services on November 24 to an unveiled woman.” To read the story from AFP, click here.
Electricity In Kyiv 'Almost Completely' Restored After Russian Atttacks
Electricity, water supplies as well as heat and communications have been "almost completely" restored in Kyiv, the city's military administration said on November 27. It added that “outages are possible due to the load on the power grid.” Tens of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian capital had been left without electricity following intensive Russian attacks. Some 130,000 people in the metropolis of 3 million were still affected, the Ukrainian capital’s military administration said on November 26. On November 23, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with dozens of rockets and cruise missiles, causing severe damage. To read the original story from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Russia To Bar Foreigners From Using Its Surrogate Mothers
Russia will soon adopt a law barring foreigners from using Russian surrogate mothers, Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, said on November 27, the nation's Mother's Day. Paid surrogacy is legal in Russia, but the practice has been criticized by religious groups as commercializing the birth of children. "Everything must be done to protect children by prohibiting foreigners from using the surrogacy service," Volodin said on Telegram. "We will make this decision at the beginning of December." He said some 45,000 babies born by surrogate mothers have been taken abroad in the past few years. "Child trafficking is unacceptable," he added. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
Queiroz Tells Klinsmann To Quit FIFA Role Over 'Outrageous' Iran Rebuke
Iran's coach Carlos Queiroz lambasted German soccer icon Juergen Klinsmann for criticizing his team's World Cup conduct, calling his remarks a "disgrace to football" and urging him to resign from his role with world governing body FIFA. In comments as an analyst with broadcaster BBC, 1990 World Cup winner Klinsmann accused Iran of systematic gamesmanship during their stunning 2-0 stoppage time win over Wales on November 25 and said Queiroz's record with other national teams made him the right match for Iran. "That's their culture and that's their way of doing it and that's why Carlos Queiroz, he fits really well in the Iranian national team," said Klinsmann, a former United States coach. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
Iranian Activist Hossein Ronaghi Released On Bail, Transferred To Hospital
Iranian authorities on November 26 released activist Hossein Ronaghi on bail, his brother said. Ronaghi was among thousands arrested in the crackdown on protests rocking the country over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was taken into custody by morality police for the alleged improper wearing of a head scarf. Concern had been growing about Ronaghi’s health after he went on a hunger strike last month. "Hossein was released tonight on bail to undergo treatment," Hossein Ronaghi's brother Hassan said on Twitter. Their father, Ahmad, said Ronaghi had been transferred to a hospital after refusing to eat for 64 days. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, click here.
Russia, Ukraine Announce Latest Prisoner Swap
Russia and Ukraine announced the latest exchange of prisoners, with 12 Ukrainians and nine Russians released. “Another POWs swap. We managed to [win the] release 12 [Ukrainians]. Our soldiers, who defended Mariupol, the Chernobyl [nuclear plant], and Snake Island are returning home,” the head of the Ukrainian presidential office, Andriy Yermak, said on Twitter on November 26. Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said nine Russians prisoners of war had been released to Russian authorities “as a result of the negotiation process.”
Ukraine Wants Lower Cap On Russian Oil, At $30-$40 Per Barrel
The price for Russian seaborne oil should be capped at between $30-$40 per barrel, lower than the level that Group of Seven (G7) nations have proposed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on November 26. EU governments, seeking to curb Moscow's ability to fund the Ukraine war without causing an oil supply shock, are split over a G7 push that the cap be set at $65-$70 per barrel. It is due to enter into force on December 5. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
Zelenskiy Says Ukraine 'Cannot Be Broken,' Citing Russian Invasion, 1932-33 Famine
KYIV -- President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared that Ukraine “cannot be broken” as he cited his country’s fight against the Russian invasion and marked the anniversary of the famine regarded by Ukrainians to be a deliberate act perpetrated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
"Ukrainians went through very terrible things...Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger -- now, with darkness and cold," Zelenskiy said on November 26 in a video message.
"We cannot be broken," he declared.
The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Belgium, Lithuania, and Poland were in Kyiv to mark the day and to attend a summit hosted by Zelenskiy to press the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative designed to get crucial supplies to world markets. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron were among those speaking through video addresses.
Zelenskiy’s remarks came amid widespread cuts in power and water supplies in his country after weeks of Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and as temperatures plunge with the beginning of winter.
Zelenskiy and other leaders commemorated the victims of the Holodomor famine, which took place in 1932-33 as Stalin's police forced peasants in Ukraine to join collective farms by requisitioning their grain and other foodstuffs.
Historians say the failure to properly harvest crops in Ukraine in 1932 under Soviet mismanagement was the main cause of the famine.
It is estimated that up to 9 million people died as a result of executions, deportation, and starvation during the Stalin-era campaign.
Many Ukrainians consider the famine an act of genocide aimed at wiping out Ukrainian farmers.
Along with Ukraine, at least 16 other countries have officially recognized the Holodomor as “genocide.”
In October 2018, the U.S. Senate adopted a nonbinding resolution recognizing that Stalin and those around him committed genocide against the Ukrainians in 1932-33.
German lawmakers are preparing to recognize the Holodomor as genocide, according to a draft text seen by the AFP news agency of a joint resolution from Germany's ruling coalition and opposition.
Moscow has long denied any systematic effort to target Ukrainians, arguing that a poor harvest at the time wiped out many in other parts of the Soviet Union.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that he "honored the memory of the Holodomor victims" at a memorial in the Ukrainian capital.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, on his first visit to Kyiv since the Russian invasion, said on Twitter that "after the heavy bombing of recent days, we stand with the people of Ukraine. More than ever before."
"With the cold winter months ahead, Belgium is releasing new humanitarian and military aid," he added.
Zelenskiy told the grain summit that Kyiv is one of the guarantors of world food security and will fulfill its duties despite the Russian invasion, citing the new “Grain From Ukraine” initiative.
He pressed world leaders to support the initiative aimed at feeding about 5 million people in poor countries, particularly Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria.
Speaking through video statements to the summit, Scholz and Macron unveiled new financial packages designed to aid Ukrainian grain exports, which have been hit hard by the war, causing food shortages in many of the world’s poorer nations.
"The most vulnerable countries must not pay the price of a war they did not want," Macron said.
Zelenskiy said the Black Sea Grain Initiative -- brokered by Turkey and the UN and agreed to by Russia and Ukraine -- is not operating at full capacity, blaming what he called Moscow's efforts to delay the movement of ships, leaving many vessels trapped at Ukrainian ports.
The deal took effect in August, aimed at unblocking grain shipments to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia.
Ukraine and Russia are key global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other food to those countries, and Russia was the world's top exporter of fertilizer before it launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine in February.
Many in the West have accused Russia of weaponizing the shipment of crucial food-related supplies to world markets. Moscow denies the accusations.
Meanwhile, throughout Ukraine, millions of people are still without heat or electricity after the recent devastating Russian air strikes on infrastructure sites.
Authorities on November 26 were gradually restoring power in many cities -- helped by the reconnection to the grid of the nation’s four nuclear plants.
Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces was reported in the east and south of the country, as Kyiv’s troops continue their counteroffensive, which has recaptured thousands of kilometers of territory seized by Russia early in the war.
In the recently liberated southern city of Kherson and its environs, authorities said at least 32 people have been killed by Russian shelling since pro-Kremlin forces withdrew two weeks ago and moved to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River.
"Daily Russian shelling is destroying the city and killing peaceful local residents. In all, Russia has killed 32 civilians in the Kherson region since the de-occupation," Ihor Klymenko, chief of the National Police of Ukraine, said on Facebook.
"Many people are evacuating to seek refuge in calmer regions of the country. But many residents remain in their homes, and we need to provide them with the maximum possible security," he added.
With reporting by AFP and AP
Prime Ministers From Belgium, Lithuania, Poland Arrive In Kyiv, Offer Support For Ukraine
The prime ministers of EU and NATO members Lithuania, Poland, and Belgium arrived in Kyiv on November 26, expressing support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and attending a summit hosted by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss implementation of the “Grain From Ukraine” initiative. The parties reaffirmed their readiness to continue their efforts to ensure regular and structured EU budget support for Ukraine throughout 2023 and further participation in the restoration and reconstruction of infrastructure damaged by Russia's full-scale invasion. To read the original story from RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service, click here.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei Dies, Says State News Agency
Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimer Makei has died suddenly at the age of 64, the BelTA state news agency reported on November 26. No cause of death was cited and a spokesman said there were no indications he had been in poor health. Until 2020, in pro-Kremlin media and Telegram channels, Makei had repeatedly been accused of seeking to improve relations with the West to the detriment of Russia's interests, but he later defended Minsk's logistical support for Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. To read the original story by RFE/RL's Belarus Service, click here.
130,000 In Kyiv Still Without Power After Russian Strikes
After intensive Russian attacks, tens of thousands of residents in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, are still without electricity, according to the local authorities. Some 130,000 people in the metropolis of 3 million were still affected, the city's military administration said on November 26, adding that repairs should be finished in the next 24 hours. All heating systems should then be working again, the authorities said. On November 23, Russia targeted Ukraine's energy infrastructure with dozens of missiles and cruise missiles, causing severe damage.
Cyberattack Hits Iran's Fars News Agency
Hackers have disrupted the work of Iran's Fars news agency, one of the main sources of news disseminated by the state during protests over the death of a young woman in police custody in September, the agency said. Fars said its website had been disrupted late on November 25 by a "complex hacking and cyberattack operation...Removing possible bugs...may cause problems for some agency services for a few days," it said in a statement posted on November 26 on its Telegram channel. To read the original story by AFP, click here.
Power Restored In Ukrainian City Of Kherson, Senior Presidential Aide Says
Electricity has been restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after its liberation earlier this month from Russian occupation, a senior presidential aide said on November 26. "First we are supplying power to the city's critical infrastructure and then immediately to household consumers," Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. The city had been without electricity, central heating and running water when Ukrainian forces reclaimed it on November 11. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Ukraine Works To Restore Water, Power After Russian Strikes
Ukrainian authorities endeavored on November 26 to restore electricity and water services after a recent pummeling by Russian military strikes that vastly damaged infrastructure. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said millions have seen their power restored since blackouts swept the war-battered country days earlier. Meanwhile, skirmishes continued in the east and residents from the southern city of Kherson headed north and west to flee after punishing, deadly bombardments by Russian forces in recent days. To read the original story by AP, click here.
Ukraine President's Chief Of Staff Says Russia 'Will Pay' For Soviet-Era Famines
Russia will pay for a Soviet-era famine that left millions of Ukrainians dead during the winter of 1932-33 and for its actions in the current war in Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's presidential administration said on November 26. "The Russians will pay for all of the victims of the Holodomor and answer for today's crimes," Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram, using the Ukrainian name for the disaster. Ukraine's annual memorial day for the victims of Holodomor takes place this year on November 26. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
Toqaev Sworn In For Second Term As Kazakhstan's President After Vote That 'Lacked Genuine Competition'
Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev was sworn in for his second term as Kazakhstan’s president in a ceremony in Astana on November 26 after winning a snap election that international observers said lacked genuine competition. Toqaev's victory was expected, given that he was competing against five little-known opponents. The November 20 election came nearly three months after Kazakhstan replaced its system limiting presidents to two consecutive five-year terms with a single seven-year term. To read the original story by RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service, click here.
Iran's Khamenei Praises Basij Forces For Confronting 'Riots'
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on November 26 that Basij militia forces sacrificed their lives in "riots" sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in September. The Basij force, affiliated with the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been at the forefront of the state crackdown on protests that have spread across the country. To read the original story from Reuters, click here.
U.K. Says Russia Likely Removing Nuclear Warheads From Missiles And Firing At Ukraine
Russia is likely removing nuclear warheads from aging nuclear cruise missiles and firing unarmed munitions at Ukraine, Britain's military intelligence said on November 26. It said open-source imagery shows the wreckage of an air- launched cruise missile fired at Ukraine which seems to have been designed in the 1980s as a nuclear delivery system, adding that ballast was probably being substituted for the warheads. Such a system will still produce damage through the missile's kinetic energy and unspent fuel. However, it's unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets. To read the original story by Reuters, click here.
In Rare Public Spat, Zelenskiy Criticizes Kyiv Mayor Over Emergency Centers
In a rare public spat involving Ukrainian leaders, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy criticized the mayor of Kyiv for doing what he said was a poor job setting up emergency shelters to help those without power and heat after Russian attacks. Ukraine has established thousands of "invincibility centers" where people can access heat, water, Internet, and mobile phone links. In an evening address on November 25, Zelenskiy indicated that Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko and his officials had not done enough and "more work is needed." To see the original Reuters story, click here.
Six Million Ukrainians Still Without Electricity; Army Says Battles Raging In East And Southeast
Ukrainian repair crews continued to scramble to return power to millions of homes on November 25 following devastating Russian missile attacks this week on infrastructure facilities including water and heating sources, while Kyiv said near-constant Russian bombing was affecting a handful of population centers in the east.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that more than 6 million households remain in darkness.
"As of this evening, blackouts continue in most regions and in Kyiv," he said.
But he said work crews had succeeded in cutting the number of affected locations "by half" since November 23, one of the most destructive nights of Russian bombing of power infrastructure in the nine-month-old invasion.
In addition to the capital, Zelenskiy said Odesa on the Black Sea, Lviv in western Ukraine, west-central Vinnytsia, and Dnipropetrovsk in central Ukraine are some of the hardest-hit areas.
The national power-grid company, Ukrenerho, said via Telegram on November 25 that by 7 p.m. around 30 percent of the country's electricity supplies were still out.
It said a "phased restoration" was continuing and repair teams "are working around the clock" but urged people to consume energy "sparingly."
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal credited energy workers and said, "No country in the world has such experience in putting the energy system into operation after seven waves of missile strikes."
Zelenskiy also visited a multistory residential building reportedly damaged by a Russian missile in the town of Vyshhorod, north of the capital, along with one of the emergency hubs Ukraine has been setting up around the country to provide device charging, heat, water, Internet, and electricity.
In his video statement he assured Ukrainians that "we will overcome all challenges and we will definitely win."
The Ukrainian Army General Staff said on November 25 that said active battles were raging in the regions of Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhzhya.
Russian forces are carrying out nonstop shelling in the Kryvyi and Kherson regions, it said, including in the city of Kherson.
The Ukrainian military said its forces had carried out attacks on a Russian command post and a half-dozen other targets including three enemy anti-aircraft missile stations.
RFE/RL cannot independently verify battlefield claims in areas of intense fighting.
The Ukrainian General Staff also accused Russian troops of dangerous actions at Europe's largest nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhya, which it has occupied since early in the invasion.
"The opponent continues to pressure Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant workers," a Ukrainian General Staff spokesman said on Facebook. "According to available information, individual employees who refuse to cooperate with the occupation authorities are not allowed to work places."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Ukrainian officials have complained of catastrophic risk as exhausted Ukrainian workers at Zaporizhzhya work under extreme duress.
The head of the UN's nuclear agency said this week that all of Ukraine's civilian nuclear power plants are due for inspections and that IAEA experts will visit all those facilities, including the abandoned Chernobyl power plant.
With reporting by Reuters and AFP
LGBT Support Center Shutters Tatarstan Operations Over Russia's New Anti-LGBT 'Propaganda' Law
A support center for the LGBT+ community in the capital of the southern Russian Republic of Tatarstan has announced its suspension of activities to avoid falling afoul of a sweeping new Russian law banning "propaganda" of nontraditional sexual relations or desires to "change sex."
The Acceptance center in Kazan announced the closure on its Instagram page on November 25.
"In connection with the new law on the complete ban on LGBT 'propaganda,' Acceptance is suspending its activities," the group said, adding that it was ending its main activity on a leading Russian social network. "The VK website and support group are being closed. Open support groups for queer people in Kazan are being suspended."
Russia's parliament on November 24 passed the third and final reading of legislation that expands a nine-year-old ban on promoting LGBT "propaganda" to children by barring such promotion among people of any age.
Any action or event deemed to be promoting nontraditional gender views or homosexuality -- including online, in film, books, advertising or in public -- could incur a heavy fine. The fine will be up to $6,600 for individuals and up to $82,100 for legal entities, according to Reuters.
Russia Declares Ex-Mayor, TV Journalist, And Trans Support Group Among 'Foreign Agents'
Russia's Justice Ministry has placed former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman and TV Dozhd journalist Anna Mongait on its list of "foreign agents."
Other new additions under the increasingly applied law on November 25 included a trans-initiative group, a charitable foundation, and a journalist who collaborates with RFE/RL.
A Russian court released Roizman from detention in August but ordered him not to communicate with anyone without permission, as it imposed pre-trial restrictions a day after police arrested the outspoken Kremlin critic and prosecutors accused him of "discrediting the armed forces."
Journalist Mongait's independent Russian television station Dozhd was forced to suspend operations in March amid pressure linked to its coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and later began broadcasting some of its programs from Latvia.
Also on the list were the head of the Free Buryatia anti-war foundation; a former volunteer for jailed Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny's headquarters in Ufa; and a Perm political scientist and the coordinator of the Golos observer movement.
The ministry also added journalist Lyubov Barabashova, who collaborates with RFE/RL's Russian Service's Siberia.Realities project, to its list.
It also included among foreign agents the trans-initiative group T-Action, which supports the transgender community.
The Social Partnership, an NGO, was also listed.
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