8 Сентября 2016 года

Glasnost defence foundation digest No. 767


Russian media regulator demands confirmation from around world that owners of Tomsk-based media holding have no dual citizenship

By Georgy Borodyansky, GDF correspondent in Siberian Federal District

The media regulator Roskomnadzor has urged the founders of a media holding to prove they have no dual citizenship by fetching appropriate certificates from the representation offices and consulates of all of the world's 252 countries (sic!).

Oversight agency officials have worked really hard to oust from the media space what little remains of the Tomsk-based TV2 media holding - an online news agency with a staff of just a few workers, and a musical radio station, Europe Plus Tomsk, which would hardly ever give the state a headache if it were not for its legal links with the shut-down TV channel of the same name, and with the news agency which reminds the authorities online in an everyday mode of what they might otherwise prefer to forget.

We reported details of the TV broadcaster's liquidation in several digest editions (see digests 689 www.gdf.ru , 694 www.gdf.ru , and 736 www.gdf.ru ). Helping Roskomnadzor in that process was the radio/television relay network, RTRS, which had unilaterally terminated the broadcasting agreement with TV2 (officially, because of feeling "hurt" by the channel management's "politicizing" the issue of a broken transmitter which RTRS was not rushing to repair while Roskomnadzor was threatening journalists with cancelling the channel's broadcasting license in view of non-operation). Local viewers took to the streets in biting frost to hold rallies and gather 14,000 signatures in support of the broadcaster; those signatures were forwarded to the presidential administration but were totally ignored.

In theory, the TV channel could continue broadcasting via cable, and in August 2015 the Tomsk Media Group (TMG) submitted to Roskomnadzor the package of documents required to be given a new license. But officials this time decided against looking for new pretexts to refuse the license and claimed from the TMG owners proofs of their not having dual citizenship: the conventional Migration Service certificate was evidently "not enough" for the regulators.

In April this year, Roskomnadzor likewise refused to extend the broadcasting license of Europe Plus Tomsk, requiring the radio holding MediaFM director, Sergei Lapenkov, to present non-existing certificates proving he is a citizen of Russia only.

The Moscow Court of Arbitration on 3 August pronounced the Roskomnadzor ruling unlawful and required the regulator "to eliminate the claimant's rights violations" within 10 days of the court decision's coming into full legal force. Yet Roskomnadzor continues insisting it is right, and it has turned to the Ninth Arbitration Court of Appeals demanding that it annul the ruling of the lower-standing court which evidently "underestimated the dangers" of the TV2 owners' possibly having dual citizenship. In the text of its appeal, the federal agency cited RF Foreign Ministry circular of 15 April 2014 recommending that Russian citizens seek "reliable proofs" of their being citizens of only one country. For that purpose, they should "send letters to the diplomatic representations and consulates of foreign states" to dispel oversight agencies' doubts (unless by the time you get the replies some country or other gets renamed or new state-like formations like the Donetsk or Lugansk People's Republics are established as a result of historical development). As of today, according to Wikipedia, there are 252 countries around the world, Muchnik wrote.

Candidates running for seats on the State Duma, too, he noted, are checked for potential dual citizenship, but the procedure is much simpler: the regional Election Committee files inquiries with the regional police department's migration division which checks with the Foreign Ministry database and sends out in 2 to 3 days' time replies which the committee then feeds into the State Automated System Vybory (Elections). As regards the similar check carried out in respect of the Tomsk-based media holding founder, Roskomnadzor found it "insufficiently reliable", which is quite understandable, though: even if an MP does have dual citizenship, property, or bank accounts in other countries, his "patriotic devotion" to Russia remains beyond doubt.


Karelia Union of Journalists to defend colleagues

By Anatoly Tsygankov, GDF correspondent in North-Western Federal District

Later this week Nadezhda Gongeleva, chief editor of the Lahdenpohja district newspaper Prizyv, is to challenge in court the early-dismissal decision issued in her name without any explanation by district administration head V. Vokhmin, who is alleged to have thereby violated several labour legislation norms and Media Law provisions, a reason giving Gongeleva some hope for reinstatement.

Vokhmin, who represents one of the newspaper's founders, ignored the opinions of two other co-founders, the District Council of Deputies and the Respublika Kareliya news agency. When sacking Gongeleva, he "forgot" about her dual status as chief editor and concurrent director of the municipal company Newspaper Prizyv. This required him in the process to look not only to labour legislation but also to the RF Media Law regulating the work of media outlets and journalists, as well as to the company's internal documents such as the co-owners' agreement to coordinate the appointment and dismissal of the editor-in-chief collectively.

The Karelia Union of Journalists has urged the republic's prosecutor to look at close quarters at a situation in which the district leader is driven by a poorly concealed desire to ban the debates over any topic related to a local businessman, V. Velikodvorsky. Prizyv has carried an article hinting at tax machinations by that entrepreneur who also is a deputy of the Lahdenpohja District Council. Instead of starting criminal proceedings against him, a campaign of pressure on Gongeleva has been mounted. The KUJ suggested carrying out a check-up of the facts highlighted in the publication, and having them assessed in legal terms. The appeal also pointed to Vokhmin's alleged violation of the Media Law which prohibits the officials to practise censorship or pre-condition the publishing of materials by page-proof "reading" prior to publication.

Gongeleva was fired after reporting about the illegal return of VAT in the amount of 12 million roubles to a company under MP Velikodvorsky's control. The publication was based on information supplied by an arbitration manager who suspected the businessman of bankrupting the company deliberately.

The staffers of the newspaper Prizyv have firmly stood up for their lady boss.


Labour inspectorate in Rostov Region "hits plan targets" by fining local newspapers

By Anna Lebedeva, GDF correspondent in Southern Federal District

A few days ago, the State Labour Inspectorate in the Rostov Region completed an inspection of the regional newspaper Nashe Vremya and imposed a fine on the chief editor, Vera Yuzhanskaya. Actually, officials found no violations in the habitual meaning of the word: the wages to journalists are paid on time, no workplace traumas have been registered, the lighting in the offices is excellent, and even the air conditioners are fully workable. Yet labour inspectors never leave the premises of this, nor of other, newspapers, without writing out a fine ticket. The only exception is Taganrogskaya Pravda which has managed to get off with "only" two official warnings. Journalists see this arm-twisting campaign as linked with the fact that President Putin recently banned "excessive pressure on business" while not saying a word about the media.

If an employer's contracts with workers, collective agreements, wage payments, and other obligations to the staff are in full order (at Nashe Vremya, even log books of preliminary and periodical work-safety instructions to correspondents, proof-readers and makers-up are conducted with utmost accuracy), inspectors will be sure to check what kind of soap is available in restrooms - with or without certificates of quality, and whether such certificates are attached to the uniforms purchased (in advance, specially to please the oversight officials) for the company drivers, and so on, and so forth.

"The inspectorate has invented its own method of money extortion: they complete an inspection within a day's, not a week's, time, since the law says if the inspected party manages to eliminate all drawbacks and omissions while an inspection is still in progress, no such omissions shall be reflected in the final protocol, nor shall they entail any sanctions. That's why an inspector pops up for one day, quickly finds some minor flaw, writes out a penalty ticket, and goes west," Lyubov Filippenko, editor of the newspaper Znamya Shakhtyora based in the city of Novoshakhtinsk, told the GDF.

The fine amount usually varies between 50,000 and 80,000 roubles, which is quite a significant sum for a district or city newspaper living from hand to mouth. The list of those fined includes the newspapers Trud from Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Rayonnyye Vesti from Tatsinskaya, Perekryostok from Belaya Kalitva, and other local newspapers all the way up to the Rostov office of the federal weekly Argumenty i Fakty.

Perekryostok has even sent three staffers to the city of Shakhty to take public labour inspectors' training courses, and all of them returned with appropriate certificates. Even these did not help: an inspector from another city nevertheless fined the newspaper once again in ardent implementation of the task set before him by his boss, labour inspectorate head Nikolai Fedyanin, a two-time ex-mayor of Taganrog. The task must be fulfilled by all means - period. But then, not a single media outlet has ever challenged a fine levied on it. Of course, journalists are more used to defending readers' rights, rather than their own, but they may as well try to stand up for themselves time and again …

City mayor in Chelyabinsk Region detects "yet another threat" to Russia's security

By Irina Gundareva, GDF correspondent in Urals Federal District

Mayor A. Vinogradov of the city of Troitsk, Chelyabinsk Region, has detected "a threat" emanating from the social media, and urged the regional Investigative Department to start criminal proceedings against local journalist Marina Klein, who says she has already been officially summoned for questioning.

Earlier, the mayor filed a complaint with Roskomnadzor, asking the media regulator to restrict access to Klein's account in the Odnoklassniki social network and to bring her to justice.

His requests to "restrict access" or "shut down network accounts altogether", apart from Klein's, also mentioned two VKontakte accounts and one website with none of which the lady journalist had anything to do. The way the Troitsk mayor looks at it, information featured on Klein's web page (as in the other social networks he named) "is sharply negative and contains foul language, as well as threats to the lives and health of municipal officials". He as city head is "concerned over the situation" and believes that persons posting such information "aim to influence the official decision-making process, undermine social stability, create political tensions in the city, harm the public image of government bodies, and hamper the lawful work of self-governments; consequently, their activities are in conflict with Russia's security interests".

Since Roskomnadzor did not find any ground for restricting access to the above-described web resources, Vinogradov sent his complaint to the Investigative Department.

When we called the department's local division in Troitsk, they said they knew nothing about that case and could not comment without their superiors' authorisation.

Kirov acting governor's security guard bars reporter from attending boss' meeting with conned condominium stakeholders

By Alexander Borisov, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

In Kirov on 2 September, Acting Governor Igor Vassilyev met with people who had paid for apartments in a multi-storey building in Lenin Street that still remains unfinished. Katerina Klepikovskaya, a reporter for the web journal 7x7, was among those to whom the reasons were being explained why the apartment block had not been built on time.

As the dialogue between the mayor and the crowd started growing more and more emotional, a tall man approached Klepikovskaya, grabbed her by the elbow, and walked her aside despite her protests and pleas to leave her alone. He refused outright to introduce himself, explain why the lady correspondent could not attend Vassilyev's meeting with conned condominium stakeholders, or why he was interfering with a media reporter's lawful work. Klepikovskaya's colleagues from the REN TV channel, who were also present at the meeting and saw the incident with their own eyes, explained to her later that the tall man was a security service (FSO) agent.

The 7х7 web journal management is preparing a report to the competent agencies about this instance of outside meddling in a journalist's work.

Court in Maritime Region turns down legal claim against journalists

By Anna Seleznyova, GDF correspondent in Far Eastern Federal District

At long last - 30 months after the start - court hearings have completed of the case of journalist Marina Zavadskaya and her article "That's Not `Misha 2%', That's `Mikhailov 60%'!" carried by the newspaper Arsenyevskiye Vesti.

Let us remind you of some details of this dragged-out lawsuit. Geological engineer Vitaly Ustinov, who discovered a new sand deposit in the Shkotovsky District, Maritime Region, early in the "wild 1990s", came to the newspaper's office in the winter of 2014 to say he had established a private company, TOO Kutum, started the law-required exploration of the deposit, and paused for a few long years to earn the money needed to finance further work. Finally, he had returned home with a license to use the deposit, and gone to Shkotovsky District head Viktor Mikhailov asking for Kutum to be allotted land to develop a sandpit.

That is when the intrigue started underlying Zavadskaya's would-be article and the numerous lawsuits that followed. The district leader said Ustinov had to approach the leaseholder, Mr Ismailov, in whose name the land plot would be allotted, which would then be divided into three parts, including one for Mikhailov, and Ismailov's brother would pose as the main stakeholder. Ustinov appealed to the district administration, and several times to the district court; he won all of the lawsuits, but he kept receiving threats from persons who later burned his house, excavator, and car. Finally, he turned for help to the regional Investigation Department which made public information about the story characters' joint business and the criminal activity of Mikhailov and Ismailov. Yet it was not until the geologist wrote to Arsenyevskiye Vesti that things began to move in real terms.

Marina Zavadskaya's big article illustrated by a photo of the two "main characters" came off the press on 3 April 2014. District leader Viktor Mikhailov and entrepreneur Atash Ismailov kept filing legal claims against the newspaper and its author from May 2014 through 30 August 2016, with at least 20 court sittings held in between. Courts at actually all levels turned those claims down in 2014 and all follow-up appeals in 2015. It was only in one case that the district court, in the absence of a judicial decision acknowledging Ismailov's status as leader of an Azeri organised crime ring, fined the editor and the article's author 2,500 roubles each.

Finally, the Maritime Region Court last week cancelled what little the district court had awarded Ismailov earlier (the decision in Mikhailov's case was passed back in the autumn of 2015, with his claim rejected in full). The regional court ruling has now entered into full legal force.


Media-related conflicts registered by GDF Monitoring Service on RF territory in August 2016

Attacks on journalists and bloggers - 3 (Dmitry Remizov, RosBalt correspondent, Rostov-on-Don; Yulia Latynina, Novaya Gazeta correspondent, Moscow; NTV film crew, Ufa)

Instances of censorship - 2 (Moskva 24 TV channel, Moscow; Sankt-Peterburg TV channel, St. Petersburg)

Criminal charges against journalists, media and bloggers - 7 (Alexander Sukhanov, editor, Kompromat29.ru news website, Arkhangelsk; Grigory Kunis, publisher, Moy Rayon newspaper, St. Petersburg; Valery Uskov, editor, newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta, Chelyabinsk Region; Sergei Kustov, chief editor, BARS TV/Radio Company, Ivanovo; Yuri Ilchenko, blogger, Crimea; Natalya Vakhonina, chief editor, Mezhdu Strok news agency, Sverdlovsk Region; Fyodor Maryasov, blogger, Krasnoyarsk Region)

Illegal sacking of editor/journalist - 4 (Nadezhda Gongeleva, chief editor, district newspaper Prizyv, Karelia; Alexander Tairov, deputy director, Bryansk State TV/Radio Company, Bryansk; Alexei Golovin, deputy director, Bryanskaya Guberniya TV channel, Bryansk; Marina Nikolayeva, Bryanskaya Guberniya TV channel news anchor, Bryansk)

Detention by police, FSB, etc. - 6 (Yulia Shaidulina, editor, Novokuznetsk Kriminalnyi magazine, Kemerovo Region; Valery Uskov, editor, newspaper Pravda Goroda Zlatousta, Chelyabinsk Region; Sergei Kustov, chief editor, BARS TV/Radio Company, Ivanovo; Olga Sapronova, journalist, Gradus TV television project, Moscow; Marina Pustovaya, journalist, newspaper Dvornik, Kaliningrad; Anatoly Sologubov, chief editor, SotsInformBuro news agency, Volgograd)

Denial of access to information (including bans on audio/video recording and photography; denials of accreditation; restrictions on visits to or presence at events held in government agencies, at industrial enterprises, in state institutions, etc.) - 35

Threats against journalists, bloggers and media - 3 (Dmitry Remizov, RosBalt correspondent, Rostov-on-Don; Ayrat Shamilov, chief editor, sports reporter, Biznes-Online news agency, Kazan; Lyudmila Shiffner, journalist, newspaper Prizyv, Karelia)

Refusal to print (or distribute) media - 1 (The New Times, Moscow)

Disruption of TV/radio broadcasts - 1 (TNT-Syktyvkar TV channel, Syktyvkar)

Closure of media - 1 (Russkaya Planeta web resource, Moscow)

Withdrawal, purchase or confiscation of print run - 3 (newspaper Grazhdanskaya Oborona, Chelyabinsk Region; newspaper Ryadom s Domom, Yekaterinburg; newspaper Novaya Nyurka, Yakutia)

Interference with internet publications - 3 (website Krym.realii, Crimea; website Russia Today, Moscow; website ParkGagarina, Samara)

Seizure of, or damage to photo, audio and video apparatus and computers - 3 (PC of Natalya Vakhonina, chief editor, Mezhdu Strok news agency, Sverdlovsk Region; PC of Fyodor Maryasov, blogger, Krasnoyarsk Region; video camera of NTV film crew, Ufa)

Other forms of pressure/infringement of journalists' rights - 35


Prosecutors in Vanino fail to react to journalist's attempted murder even 8 years after

By Tatyana Sedykh,

Editor, newspaper Moyo Poberezhye, Vanino, Far East

This story happened in the township of Vanino, Khabarovsk Region, several years ago; the more the investigation has been dragged out, the more complicated it has become because of the negligence of some Vanino police officials and overseeing prosecutors.

A car driver attempted to run me over at around 9 p.m. on 21 March 2007. I had no doubt it was a deliberate murder attempt. I had just turned with my dog onto a snowy walkway when I heard ice cracking behind me, glanced back, and saw that man's car turning from the main road onto the same walkway, and starting full-speed in my direction. The head and side lights of the car were switched off, the walkway ran along an apartment house and was well illuminated, and my dog and I were the only ones around. The driver could see me well, but he kept moving toward me stepping on the gas. I felt like a trapped animal: with snowdrifts on both sides of the track, I couldn't step aside to let the car pass, and the driver saw that. Suddenly realising he was not going to jam on the brakes, I pushed the dog into the snow and stepped aside over the snowbound kerb as fast as my physical disability allowed me to... At that moment, the car passed the spot where I'd stood a second earlier, then it drove up to the end of the walkway, slowed down, turned back onto the main road, and sped away.

I instantly reported the incident to the Vanino police, and a traffic-police vehicle pulled over minutes later. The officers asked me what had happened, but they didn't write anything down. On the following day, I came to the police station in person bringing my report. That's where I learned that my phone call to the duty officer the night before had not even been registered. Later in the day, I went to the scene of the murder attempt with two police investigators from the unit headed by a certain Mr Vyalov, to show them where it all had happened, where I'd been walking, from where the car had appeared, and where it had vanished from sight. The officers did not take any photo pictures, so I used my own camera to make a few shots of the treads (of the sole car in the pedestrian zone, as could be well seen in the snow on the walkway), but they refused to take the photos.

A few days later Mr Muchkayev, deputy chief of the criminal investigations unit, came to my office to tell me they'd found the car, but that my report was "not true". According to him, the car had carried three men, who allegedly had got out, apologized, and even offered to give me a lift. When I started persuading Muchkayev they had told him the wrong story, he refused to listen and went away.

Several more days later, police notified me they had called a certain Mr B. to administrative liability for violating the rules of the road. Then they sent me another notice saying someone named P. was responsible for the violation. Who were those two persons? I was never brought to confront them, and never asked if I recognised the car. I reported this to the Vanino prosecutor's office, but they told me the police department had already scrapped the case files, so it was impossible to check the quantity or quality of the investigators' work.

I kept appealing to law enforcement from 2007 through 2016 to draw attention to the investigative omissions that had badly impacted the probe's outcome. I received some support from rights defenders and MPs, but we kept receiving purely formal replies. Not so long ago, the regional prosecutor's office in Khabarovsk, in reply to an inquiry filed by a State Duma deputy, sent me the following message signed by V. Kelbakh, deputy head of the Procedural, Operative and Investigative Oversight Division: "As shown by the testimony obtained from Mr P., he was in Vanino in his father's car along with a friend, Mr B. […] on a working day between 2 and 3 p.m". That was followed by two pages of references to different law provisions, with the "traditional" ending: "In view of all of the above, we see no reason for taking any measures of prosecutorial response".

State automated system Justice comes under local censorship in Perm

By Mikhail Lobanova, GDF correspondent in Volga Federal District

The Sverdlovsky district court in Perm on 29 August extended the term of prominent prankster Sergei Davydov's stay in pre-trial detention for two more months. Two years ago, he already got a convictive sentence for playing practical jokes on magistrate and district court judges to whom he presented himself on the phone as a regional administration official and urged them to pass certain kinds of decisions. Neither the sentence nor the results of his appeal against it have ever been fed into the State Automated System Pravosudiye (Justice), despite existing norms regarding the openness of justice administration.

If one is to trust official documents, the Justice System is designed to form a single web space for the general-jurisdiction courts, and to provide citizens with essential information about how justice is administered in this country. In line with items Article 15.4-5 of the law "On access to information about the work of the Russian Federation judiciary", the only kind of information prohibited for publishing is the content of judicial acts containing state or other secrets protected under the law. Items 1 and 2 of the same article stipulate that the texts of all the other judicial acts shall be published in full, and of court decisions, after their coming into full legal force.

Davydov was detained by police on 10 May 2016 and was placed under arrest on a court warrant two days later, on suspicion of an attempt to web-extort 100,000 roubles from Irina Krasnoborova, head of the Sverdlovsky district education department in Perm. During preliminary detention, and later in the pre-trial prison, he held a hunger strike. As his arrest was being extended for the first time on 26 May, he said in court: "The charges brought against me are unknown to me. I was brought in on a stretcher after I hadn't eaten for eight days. I had high blood pressure, so I was asleep. I didn't extort money from anyone. All they have against me are pure allegations with absolutely no evidence to prove my guilt".

Two more cases were added to this one later - one about alleged libel in the Internet about Perm Deputy Mayor Viktor Ageyev, and the other two about alleged obstruction of the justice-administration process. Investigators suspect that Davydov on 6 March 2015 called on the phone Igor Sakhno, deputy chairman of the city court in Solikamsk, and presented himself as an assistant to Perm Region Court Chairman Vladimir Velyaninov. Presumably acting on behalf of his boss, he suggested that the Solikamsk court satisfy an early-release request filed by a convicted man whose case was handled by Judge Alexei Chagin. Also, Davydov is suspected of having called Industrialny district court Judge Sergei Zamyshlyayev on 3 March 2016, presenting himself as Igor Chelombitsky, chairman of the regional Council of Judges, and urging him to satisfy a certain person's protest against the closure of a criminal case against someone else.

As his term of arrest was being further extended on 29 August, Davydov said he was feeling unwell and refused to go to the courtroom. The hearing was held in the guards' room of the Sverdlovsky district court, where four guards had brought the accused on a stretcher and helped him sit up. Judge Yelena Kozhevnikova read out the certificates issued by the medical unit at Pre-trial Prison No. 1 and by a visiting team of paramedics who all agreed Davydov was fit enough to participate in the court sitting. In protest, the prisoner, 49, refused to answer the judge's questions. His defence lawyer Larissa Alfyorova asked the court to reduce her client's stay in detention to house arrest. Yet prosecutor Yekaterina Gerasimova upheld investigator Dmitry Kustov's request to leave the accused in the pre-trial prison. Considering the need for some computer tests to be carried out and additional investigative steps to be taken, Davydov's term of arrest was extended until 2 November.

All those proceedings were held openly, with the press attending. Why information about Davydov's criminal case has been censored by Justice Automated System specialists is to be explained, hopefully, by the regional court chairman, V. Velyaninov.


Journalists' Union of Russia and Mass Media Defence Centre announce Second Competition "Little People's Great Victories"

The contest's main goal is to draw media and journalists' attention to legal education, the defence of citizens' interests and rights, law observance, and the ombudsman's work in regions throughout the Russian Federation.

Eligible for participation are staff reporters and authors who will have published or aired their materials or series of materials between 1 January and 1 November 2016. There will be special prizes for media outlets consistently highlighting human rights defence efforts.

The Jury will include media experts and persons designated as Russia's Golden Pens.

The winners will be awarded prizes in the following nominations:

- The Best Court Report

- The Best Press Publication

- The Best TV Report

- The Best Radio Broadcast

- The Best Web Publication

- The Best Material about the Ombudsman's Work

- The Best Material about Migrants' Rights

- The Best Material about Children's Rights

- The Best Material about Women's Rights

- The Best Publication in a District/City Newspaper

Awards are to be handed on the eve of Human Rights Day, 10 December, at the Central House of Journalists in Moscow.

Please send your materials to 4, Zubovsky Bulvar, 119021 Moscow, Competition "Little People's Great Victories".

Should you have any questions, please call (+7 495) 637 2396, or e-mail your messages to ruj@ruj.ru

This digest was prepared by the Glasnost Defence Foundation in Moscow. The digest has been issued once a week, on Mondays, since August 11, 2000.

We acknowledge the assistance of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Currently it is distributed by e-mail to 1,600 subscribers in and outside Russia.

Editorial board

  • Editor-in-chief, Alexei Simonov
  • Boris Timoshenko, Head of Monitring Service;
  • Svetlana Zemskova, GDF Lawyer;
  • Vsevolod Shelkhovskoy, translator.

We welcome the promotion of our news items and articles but if you make use of any information from this digest or other GDF materials please acknowledge the source.


Glasnost Defence Foundation, Room 438, 4 Zubovsky Boulevard,
119992 Moscow, Russia.

Telephone/fax: +7 (495) 637-4947 and +7 (495) 637-4420
e-mail: boris@gdf.ru , or fond@gdf.ru

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