By John Helmer in Moscow

Russian strategy for extending its alliance for energy production and energy transportation into the backyard of the United States — a region Washington views as off-limits for foreign powers, since the 19th century Monroe Doctrine — marched several paces forward this week in Moscow, during the state visit of Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez.


By John Helmer in Moscow

Yury Trutnev, the Russian minister in charge of Russia’s economic relations with South Africa, is visiting South Africa, Angola and Namibia this week, in anticipation of President Vladimir Putin’s visit currently scheduled for the first week of September. Among the meetings Trutnev has arranged, the ministry told Business Day, was one on Tuesday with Tony Trahar, chief executive of Anglo American.


By John Helmer in Moscow

A lion, who copies a lion, is an ape.

That is Victor Hugo, France’s 19th century poet hero, talking of the difference between writers and hacks. If Hugo had lowered (or raised) himself to think of steelmakers, his remark might inspire sceptical reflection on what is really happening in the deal, proposed last week, for Russian steelmaker Evraz to buy a 79% control stake of Highveld Steel and Vanadium.


By John Helmer

In the Russian folk tradition, Dyed Moroz (Father Christmas) doesn’t give children their presents because they have been well-behaved all year. Instead, he responds to those who shout the loudest to catch his attention.


By John Helmer

EBRD says bauxite and aluminium loans innocent until proven guilty

MOSCOW ( — The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a London-based lender for resource development in Russia and Central Asia, is covering up allegations of corruption in a Russian-directed takeover of an aluminium smelter in Tajikistan, the largest in Central Asia, and Tajikistan’s principal enterprise. EBRD officials are emphatic that there is nothing for them to investigate in the text of an arbitration ruling issued last November in London, or in parallel and subsequent court proceedings in the UK High Court. To understand why the EBRD insists on ignoring the possibility that its own loan agreements are being violated, it is necessary to reconstruct what has happened, and what is at stake for the global aluminium industry and its creditors.

On June 25, Olivier Descamps, the EBRD executive in charge of Central Asia and “early transition countries”, was in Tajikistan on a visit. Descamps has been at the EBRD for more than a decade, but in his new post for only a short while. Accordingly, the bank says, Descamps was making his first trip to familiarize himself with the country, and some of its main assets. On June 26, a Sunday, when a colleague says there was little else for him to do, Descamps also visited the biggest asset in the country, and its largest export earner, Tajikistan Aluminium Plant (TadAZ).

The day before, on June 25 an aircraft brought a delegation from Norway to Tajikistan. This included Norway’s Ambassador to Russia and Tajikistan, Oywind Nordsletten, and senior executives of one of Norway’s largest companies, Norsk Hydro. The ambassador told Mineweb through a spokesman that the delegation met, among others, with President Emomali Rahmonov.

According to an interview with Jean-Patrick Marquet, an EBRD resource banker, and Fernand Pillonel, the EBRD station chief in Tajikistan, they have heard that Norsk Hydro met with Tajikistan’s President on June 26. “The two missions were a coincidence — these things happen”, Pillonel told Mineweb. He and Marquet claim not to know that the World Bank and the Norwegian government — a member of the EBRD — also participated in the meeting. Nor, they say, have they learned anything since about the meeting’s outcome.

Last November in London, Norsk Hydro won an arbitration ruling, awarding $145 million against TadAZ. Norsk Hydro’s aluminium division had been the offtaker and partner of companies associated with Avaz Nazarov, who had been managing TadAZ. When the latter’s contracts were cancelled, and personnel evicted, TadAZ stopped supplying finished aluminium to Hydro, and revoked Hydro’s contracts, halting delivery of about 80,000 tons of metal.

That action triggered the arbitration provisions of the contracts, and the Norwegian company took its claims to London. There the case, covered by confidentiality provisions, turned into a highly sensitive review of how TadAZ had been taken over by companies associated with Russian Aluminium (Rusal), and with its owner Oleg Deripaska. Marquet and Pillonel say they know of the arbitration case, and its outcome. “I’m not sure Rusal was involved,” Marquet claims.

As Mineweb has reported before, with the involvement of senior Tajik officials, TadAZ was taken over by the Rusal group, the world’s third largest aluminium producer, in December 2004. Since May of 2005, these circumstances have been the focus of High Court proceedings in London, where TadAZ, backed by Rusal, is charging fraud against Nazarov and his companies. The Nazarov group has charged Rusal with corruption in the takeover of the plant, and of massive fraud.

TadAZ, which sought the jurisdiction of the High Court in London in order to attack Nazarov, claims it is not subject to UK jurisdiction in the Norsk Hydro arbitration claim.

In a series of preliminary rulings the High Court has found in favour of Nazarov, penalized TadAZ, issued a default judgement against the brother-in-law of the Tajik president, and hinted that it believes Rusal is the chief conspirator in the TadAZ takeover, the mastermind and paymaster of TadAZ’s London litigation. Rusal owner Deripaska, who owns two homes in England, has issued a detailed denial that he spends enough time in the UK to enter the jurisdiction of the English courts.

Rusal, a Russian holding with hundreds of affiliated companies worldwide, has asked the High Court to deny that it has jurisdiction over Rusal. From June 19 to July 4, Judge Cresswell of the High Court heard testimony on the jurisdiction issue. The charges themselves cannot be decided until, and unless, the court decides to take jurisdiction. Marquet, the EBRD banker, told Mineweb he knows what has been alleged against Rusal in the TadAZ takeover, and he is “aware of what the judge [in the Nazarov case] said”. But, he is emphatic, “these are purely allegations as of today.”

Norsk Hydro has confirmed winning the $145 million award in arbitration. “Hydro is confident that the award of the arbitration court will be upheld,” spokesman Thomass Knutzen told Mineweb.

In its appeal against the Norsk Hydro ruling, TadAZ has also sought to keep the High Court proceedings as secret as the November ruling. Were the proceedings to be open, then a good deal of what the arbitration decided in its ruling about Rusal would become public. Court circulars reveal that the case was scheduled to come on for hearing late in June, but it was adjourned for several months by agreement between Norsk Hydro and TadAZ. That agreement came just days after the Norwegian visit to Rahmonov. Apparently, Rahmonov, who faces re-election in November, and Hydro, which wants to resume its metal supply relationship with TadAZ, have a common interest in letting sleeping dogs lie, at least until November.

According to Knutzen of Hydro, also attending the Norwegian meeting with Rahmonov in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, on June 26, was a representative of the World Bank.

Strangely, the World Bank told Mineweb it was not there at all. “Neither the Bank nor IFC [World Bank affiliated International Finance Corporation] participated in the afore-mentioned meetings,” the Tajikistan office of the Bank said. Less interesting than the appearance of concealment by the World Bank is why it would lie, especially since, according to the Bank statement, “the World Bank does not have a program for TadAZ at the moment,” and hasn’t had one since June 2004 – when Nazarov, not Rusal, was in charge.

It probably has nothing to do with the matter, and is just another concidence, that the EBRD and the IFC agreed last January to act as co-lenders to a Russian bauxite mining project, half-owned by Rusal. In order to make that loan, the IFC conducted with EBRD what Marquet now claims was “extensive due diligence” on Rusal’s corporate practices.

On January 17 last, just two months after Norsk Hydro won its claim against TadAZ, the EBRD and IFC officially announced the completion of their review of Rusal. Subject to a set of legal covenants and an 18-month timetable of management promises, which Rusal had signed, the EBRD and IFC said they would implement their loan to the Komi aluminium project. That deal was described as a nine-year loan of $45 million from each of the multilateral banks, with “the remaining $30 million portion of each organisation’s $75 million facility… syndicated to international banks under an A/B loan structure. The term of the syndicated portion will be seven years.” The plan, according to the announcement, is “to increase annual bauxite output at SUAL’s Middle-Timan mine, situated 250 km south of the Arctic Circle, to 6 million tonnes from the current 1 million tonnes over the next four years.

According to the statement issued by Rusal at the time, “the [EBRD and IFC] decision to disburse the loans is based on the disclosure of ownership by RUSAL and provides for commitments to greater transparency, good corporate governance and high business standards on the part of the company. Compliance with these commitments is stipulated in legal documentation with the IFC and EBRD.”

The dossier EBRD’s lawyers gathered from Rusal remains secret, and EBRD officials will not discuss the details. Marquet also told Mineweb he refuses to identify the chief legal counsel of Rusal, who participated in the negotiations on corporate governance. The EBRD’s agreement with Rusal on transparency apparently doesn’t extend to the identity of the person responsible for legal compliance. Rusal also refuses to identify the chief legal counsel by name. When Marquet was asked if Konstantin Olifir had been Rusal’s legal representative, he said the name “doesn’t ring a bell.”

Olifir has been identified by another legal advisor as Rusal’s counsel. But he is no longer in his job, and Rusal refuses to identify who has replaced him. Asked if Olifir had been replaced, following the intensification of Rusal’s legal troubles in London, Rusal’s legal office referred the question to Rusal spokesman Vera Kurochkina; she repeatedly refused to respond. When asked if EBRD’s agreement with Rusal allows concealment of the chief compliance officer’s identity, an EBRD source warned Mineweb against asking such questions.

The EBRD is sensitive to sharp embarrassment on Rusal’s account. According to Marquet, the agreement with Rusal on corporate governance of last January was “comprehensive”. But he was foggy on what investigation the EBRD had done of the court records in the TadAZ case. He claimed EBRD knows nothing about the Norsk Hydro ruling, except what it has read in the media. Whether EBRD had an obligation to investigate more thoroughly, before signing its Rusal deal, is one question. Whether it failed to do so before Descamps flew out on his maiden visit, is another. If the EBRD’s dossier is as empty as the answers Marquet has given, and if the IFC failed to know what Norsk Hydro had testified to in the TadAZ takeover, before flying to meet President Rahmonov on June 26, then the signs point to an unusual state of naivety at both banks.

In this harsh world, embarrassment is often in store for the innocent. Sources in London have told Mineweb that fresh legal claims are pending there against Rusal or Deripaska in more than one unrelated case. One of the claims has been publicly aired by Mikhail Chernoy, the founder of an aluminium trading group which started Deripaska off in his business.

Chernoy, a Russian who lives in Israel, has publicly alleged that Deripaska owes him several billion dollars for his stake in the founding company of Rusal. Deripaska has said that Chernoy was paid out years ago. Chernoy claims he was paid $250 million, but is owed the difference between that amount and the value of what he says is his 20% stake in Rusal. Deripaska’s Moscow holding, Base Element, recently put a value of $7.26 billion on Rusal’s assets. That would assign an estimate of $1.48 billion to Chernoy’s claim, less the initial payment.

Fighting Chernoy in open court, or settling with him out of court, could be equally acute embarrassments for the EBRD. According to its press release on January 17, the EBRD and IFC confirmed that their lending relationship with Rusal was contingent on “full disclosure of ownership by RUSAL’s and Basic Element’s owner Oleg Deripaska, and additionally provides for detailed commitments to greater transparency, good corporate governance and high business standards, covering RUSAL and Basic Element. Compliance with these commitments is covenanted in legal documentation with the EBRD and IFC. In particular, the EBRD and IFC welcome the adoption by RUSAL of an action plan over an 18-month timetable covering significant corporate ownership disclosure, the publication of financial information and specific steps aimed at improving corporate governance…” A payoff for Chernoy is likely to contradict the ownership disclosure from Deripaska which EBRD wishes to be true. A violation of the disclosure agreement would start the legal dominoes falling towards the Komi aluminium loan.

EBRD officials believe they and their institution have no fiduciary duty to investigate the allegations in Nazarov’s case against TadAZ, nor to look beyond newspaper reporting of the Norsk Hydro case. At least, not yet — “until such time as there is a court ruling”, Marquet concedes. Until then, the World Bank’s attempt to deny its attendance at the meeting with Rahmonov on June 26, and the EBRD’s “concidental” appearance at TadAZ and in Dushanbe, are attempts to prevent the dominoes falling towards much larger loans the EBRD and World Bank would like to hand out to beneficiaries in Tajikistan.

According to public documents, last November 25, 17 days after EBRD executives might have raised a red flag about the Norsk Hydro case, the bank’s board of directors approved what it called its new Tajik strategy for 2006-2007. To date, the bank has committed Euro29.2 million to Tajikistan, including an outstanding loan of almost $2 million to Orienbank of Tajikistan; Orienbank happens to be a defendant in the Nazarov claim against TadAZ in the High Court. According to the counter-claim and testimony in that case, there was “close cooperation between Orienbank and Rusal in the carrying out of the conspiracy.” Already, the court has issued a default judgement against the bank’s president, Khasan Saduloev — coincidentally, brother-in-law of Rahmonov, Tajikistan’s President.

Last July — at the same time lawyers for TadAZ were pleading their case against Nazarov in the High Court in London — the World Bank agreed on a Partnership Strategy for Tajikistan for 2006-2009. This promises new loans over the next four years of about $120 million. Credits and grants to Tajikistan from the bank already total almost $400 million. According to the Bank’s latest loan program, “the Bank will work with the Government to…reduce corruption by giving special emphasis to measures that increase transparency of resource use.” If that was what the World Bank representative went to meet Rahmonov to discuss, why did the Bank deny he was there?

The answer rests on what happens if the London courts bring down verdicts that confirm the charges against Rusal. That, admits Marquet of EBRD, “could certainly affect our relationship with Rusal.”

EBRD says bauxite and aluminium loans innocent until proven guilty


By John Helmer, Moscow

The war plan of the US and the European allies is destroying the Russian market for traditional French perfumes, the profits of the French and American conglomerates which own the best-known brands, the bonuses of their managers, and the dividends of their shareholders. The odour  of these losses is too strong for artificial fresheners.

Givaudan, the Swiss-based world leader in production and supply of fragrances, oils and other beauty product ingredients, has long regarded the Russian market as potentially its largest in Europe; it is one of the fastest growing contributors to Givaudan’s profit worldwide. In the recovery from the pandemic of Givaudan’s Fragrance and Beauty division – it accounts for almost half the company’s total sales — the group reported “excellent double-digit growth in 2021, demonstrating strong consumer demand for these product categories.”    Until this year, Givaudan reveals in its latest financial report, the growth rate for Russian demand was double-digit – much faster than the  6.3% sales growth in Europe overall; faster growth than in Germany, Belgium and Spain.    

Between February 2014, when the coup in Kiev started the US war against Russia, and last December, when the Russian non-aggression treaties with the US and NATO were rejected,   Givaudan’s share price jumped three and a half times – from 1,380 Swiss francs to 4,792 francs; from a company with a market capitalisation of 12.7 billion francs ($12.7 billion) to a value of 44.2 billion francs ($44.2 billion). Since the fighting began in eastern Ukraine this year until now, Givaudan has lost 24% of that value – that’s $10 billion.  

The largest of Givaudan’s shareholders is Bill Gates. With his 14%, plus the 10% controlled by Black Rock of New York and MFS of Boston, the US has effective control over the company.

Now, according to the US war sanctions, trade with Russia and the required payment systems have been closed down, alongside the bans on the importation of the leading European perfumes. So in place of the French perfumers, instead of Givaudan, the Russian industry is reorganizing for its future growth with its own perfume brands manufactured from raw materials produced in Crimea and other regions, or supplied by India and China. Givaudan, L’Oréal (Lancome, Yves Saint Laurent), Kering (Balenciaga, Gucci), LVMH (Dior, Guerlain, Givenchy), Chanel, Estée Lauder, Clarins – they have all cut off their noses to spite the Russian face.



By Nikolai Storozhenko, introduced and translated by John Helmer, Moscow

This week President Joseph Biden stopped at an Illinois farm to say he’s going to help the  Ukraine ship 20 million tonnes of wheat and corn out of storage into export, thereby relieving  grain shortages in the international markets and lowering bread prices around the world.  Biden was trying to play a hand in which his cards have already been clipped. By Biden.  

The first Washington-Kiev war plan for eastern Ukraine has already lost about 40% of the Ukrainian wheat fields, 50% of the barley, and all of the grain export ports. Their second war plan to hold the western region defence lines with mobile armour, tanks, and artillery  now risks the loss of the corn and rapeseed crop as well as the export route for trucks to Romania and Moldova. What will be saved in western Ukraine will be unable to grow enough to feed its own people. They will be forced to import US wheat, as well as US guns and the money to pay for both.

Biden told his audience that on the Delaware farms he used to represent in the US Senate “there are more chickens than there are Americans.”  Blaming the Russians is the other card Biden has left.  



By John Helmer, Moscow

The problem with living in exile is the meaning of the word. If you’re in exile, you mean you are forever looking backwards, in geography as well as in time. You’re not only out of place; you’re out of time — yesterday’s man.

Ovid, the Roman poet who was sent into exile from Rome by Caesar Augustus, for offences neither Augustus nor Ovid revealed, never stopped looking back to Rome. His exile, as Ovid described it, was “a barbarous coast, inured to rapine/stalked ever by bloodshed, murder, war.” In such a place or state, he said, “writing a poem you can read to no one is like dancing in the dark.”

The word itself, exsilium in Roman law, was the sentence of loss of citizenship as an alternative to loss of life, capital punishment. It meant being compelled to live outside Rome at a location decided by the emperor. The penalty took several degrees of isolation and severity. In Ovid’s case, he was ordered by Augustus to be shipped to the northeastern limit of the Roman empire,  the Black Sea town called Tomis; it is now Constanta, Romania. Ovid’s last books, Tristia (“Sorrows”) and Epistulae ex Ponto (“Black Sea Letters”), were written from this exile, which began when he was 50 years old, in 8 AD, and ended when he died in Tomis nine years year later, in 17 AD.  

In my case I’ve been driven into exile more than once. The current one is lasting the longest. This is the one from Moscow, which began with my expulsion by the Foreign Ministry on September 28, 2010.  The official sentence is Article 27(1) of the law No. 114-FZ — “necessary for the purposes of defence capability or security of the state, or public order, or protection of health of the population.” The reason, a foreign ministry official told an immigration service official when they didn’t know they were being overheard, was: “Helmer writes bad things about Russia.”



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), who attempted last month  to arrange the escape from Russian capture of Ukrainian soldiers and NATO commanders,  knowing they had committed war crimes. He was asked to explain; he refuses.   

Trevor Cadieu is a Canadian lieutenant-general who was appointed the chief of staff and head of the Canadian Armed Forces last August; was stopped in September; retired from the Army this past April, and went to the Ukraine, where he is in hiding. From whom he is hiding – Canadians or Russians – where he is hiding, and what he will say to explain are questions Cadieu isn’t answering, yet.



By John Helmer, Moscow

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, is refusing this week to answer questions on the role he played in the recent attempt by US, British, Canadian and other foreign combatants to escape the bunkers under the Azovstal plant, using the human shield of civilians trying to evacuate.

In Guterres’s meeting with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on April 26 (lead image), Putin warned Guterres he had been “misled” in his efforts. “The simplest thing”, Putin told Guterres in the recorded part of their meeting, “for military personnel or members of the nationalist battalions is to release the civilians. It is a crime to keep civilians, if there are any there, as human shields.”  

This war crime has been recognized since 1977 by the UN in Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention.  In US law for US soldiers and state officials, planning to employ or actually using human shields is a war crime to be prosecuted under 10 US Code Section 950t.  

Instead, Guterres ignored the Kremlin warning and the war crime law, and authorized UN officials, together with Red Cross officials,  to conceal what Guterres himself knew of the foreign military group trying to escape. Overnight from New York, Guterres has refused to say what he knew of the military escape operation, and what he had done to distinguish, or conceal the differences between the civilians and combatants in the evacuation plan over the weekend of April 30-May 1.May.



By Vlad Shlepchenko, introduced & translated by John Helmer, Moscow

The more western politicians announce pledges of fresh weapons for the Ukraine, the more Russian military analysts explain what options their official sources are considering to destroy the arms before they reach the eastern front, and to neutralize Poland’s role as the NATO  hub for resupply and reinforcement of the last-ditch holdout of western Ukraine.

“I would like to note,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, repeated yesterday, “that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrived on the territory of the country with weapons or material means for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a legitimate target for destruction”.  He means the Ukraine border is the red line.



By Lucy Komisar,  New York*

Here’s a story the New York Times has just missed.

US politicians and media pundits are promoting the targeting of “enablers” of Russian oligarchs who stash their money in offshore accounts. A Times article of March 11   highlighted Michael Matlin, CEO of Concord Management as such an “enabler.” But the newspaper missed serious corruption Matlin was involved in. Maybe that’s because Matlin cheated Russia, and also because the Matlin story exposes the William Browder/Sergei Magnitsky hoax aimed at Russia.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In 1939 a little known writer in Moscow named Sigizmund Khrzhizhanovsky published his idea that the Americans, then the Germans would convert human hatred into a new source of energy powering everything which had been dependent until then on coal, gas, and oil.

Called yellow coal, this invention originated with Professor Leker at Harvard University. It was applied, first to running municipal trams, then to army weapons, and finally to cheap electrification of everything from domestic homes and office buildings to factory production lines. In Russian leker means a quack doctor.

The Harvard professor’s idea was to concentrate the neuro-muscular energy people produce when they hate each other.  Generated as bile (yellow), accumulated and concentrated into kinetic spite in machines called myeloabsorberators, Krzhizhanovsky called this globalization process the bilification of society.



By John Helmer, Moscow

In imperial history there is nothing new in cases of dementia in rulers attracting homicidal psychopaths to replace them.  It’s as natural as honey attracts bees.

When US President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated by a stroke on October 19, 1919, he was partially paralysed and blinded, and was no longer able to feed himself, sign his name, or speak normally; he was not demented.

While his wife and the Navy officer  who was his personal physician concealed his condition, there is no evidence that either Edith Wilson or Admiral Cary Grayson were themselves clinical cases of disability, delusion,  or derangement. They were simply liars driven by the ambition to hold on to the power of the president’s office and deceive everyone who got in their way.  

The White House is always full of people like that. The 25th Amendment to the US Constitution is meant to put a damper on their homicidal tendencies.

What is unusual, probably exceptional in the current case of President Joseph Biden, not to mention the history of the United States,  is the extent of the president’s personal incapacitation; combined with the clinical evidence of psychopathology in his Secretary of State Antony Blinken;  and the delusional condition of the rivals to replace Biden, including Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Like Rome during the first century AD, Washington is now in the ailing emperor-homicidal legionary phase.  But give it another century or two, and the madness, bloodshed, and lies of the characters of the moment won’t matter quite as much as their images on display in the museums of their successors craving legitimacy, or of successor powers celebrating their superiority.  

Exactly this has happened to the original Caesars, as a new book by Mary Beard, a Cambridge University professor of classics, explains. The biggest point of her book, she says, is “dynastic succession” – not only of the original Romans but of those modern rulers who acquired the Roman portraits in marble and later copies in paint, and the copies of those copies, with the idea of communicating “the idea of the direct transfer of power from ancient Romans to Franks and on to later German rulers.”

In the case she narrates of the most famous English owner of a series of the “Twelve Caesars”, King Charles I — instigator of the civil war of 1642-51 and the loser of both the war and his head – the display of his Caesars was intended to demonstrate the king’s self-serving “missing link” between his one-man rule and the ancient Romans who murdered their way to rule, and then apotheosized into immortal gods in what they hoped would be a natural death on a comfortable bed.

With the American and Russian successions due to take place in Washington and Moscow in two years’ time, Beard’s “Twelve Caesars, Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern”,  is just the ticket from now to then.



By Margarita Menshikova, translated by John Helmer, Moscow

On the day before Good Friday (Orthodox), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported at the Kremlin to President Vladimir Putin that at Mariupol,  inside the Azovstal steel works, about two thousand troops remain underground, including foreigners. Putin issued the following order: “There is no need to penetrate these catacombs and crawl under these industrial facilities. Seal off the industrial zone completely.”  

Four days earlier on April 17, the Defence Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov told the press that “up to four hundred foreign mercenaries were trapped [at Azovstal]… Most of them are citizens of European countries, as well as Canada. We have already reported earlier that radio conversations between militants in Mariupol are conducted in six foreign languages”  

Today, an unusually detailed report by the Moscow internet broadcaster Tsargrad was published to signal the strategic significance and political value of the NATO officers in their command bunker under Azovstal.


Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

Copyright © 2007-2017 Dances With Bears

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