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Polish PM says ‘biggest threat is Russia’ – but Poland invaded Russia many times

Poland has long been an aggressor state against Russia, yet Poles also contributed to significantly to Russian history

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The Polish Prime minister has declared (unsurprisingly), that the greatest threat to Poland is Russia. This is a standard declaration we have come to expect from all NATO countries and their allies; according to them, no matter what the situation is, Russia is always the bad guy. Prime Minister spoke at Davos, fearing a Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Fort Rus:

“What will happen when the Russian army moves deep into Ukrainian territory is unknown. It is better to have a second and third line of defense than to remain without these kinds of weapons,”- the Polish Prime Minister said.

You could substitute the Polish PM for any western leader at this point. It wouldn’t be surprising if a tiny micro-nation in the Pacific ocean declared their greatest threat is a Russian Invasion, followed by Russian hacking and then tropical storms.

Poland however, has a long story of conflict with the Rus’ peoples (Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Carpatho-Russians). Does that mean the Polish Prime Minister was right in his assessment? Absolutely not; however this long history reveals the deep-seated roots of Russophobia in Poland.

With Fire and Sword – A Tragic History of Russo-Polish Conflict

Hatred grew in the hearts of men and poisoned the blood of brotherly peoples.” – Henryk Sienkiewicz, ‘With Fire and Sword’

That quote from the famous Polish author perfectly describes the relationship between Russia, Poland, and Ukraine for that matter. In a better world, Russians and Poles should be friends, they are both Slavic peoples, and that cultural bond should be more powerful than politics. Sadly, the history is filled with conflict.

When these three words are used in the same sentence: Poland, Russia, Invaded – the average westerner always assumes the sentence is: Russia invaded Poland. This is both the result of the Cold War, in which Russia was always portrayed as a villain in the west, and also Polish biases.

War is inherently tragic, however, in the context of Russo-Polish Wars, Polish people inherently speak as if Poland was always sinless, and Russia invaded Poland brutally and without just cause from the very beginning of their relationship. This is untrue, Poland in fact, invaded Russia long before Russian soldiers ever set foot on Polish soil in any meaningful way. Two wrongs do not make a right, it is not my intention to portray the conflicts from a moralistic point of view, casting the blame on one party or another. It is necessary, however, to understand these events from an objective, historical perspective, and the history of Russo-Polish Wars did not begin with a Russian invasion of Poland. We always hear about Russian Aggression against Poland, but the following are some major examples of Polish Aggression against Russia, long before Russian armies ever set foot in Poland.

The Polish Intervention in the Kievan Interregnum 1018

In the year 1018, taking advantage of the interregnum in Kievan Rus’ following the death of Saint Vladimir ‘Equal-to-the-Apostles’, Baptiser of All Rus’, Poland invaded Kiev. The image of famous Polish King Boleslaw the Brave entering the Golden Gate depicts the moment, and how Poland’s coronation sword got its name.

The Polish sword Szczerbiec is sometimes called the “Jagged Sword”, because the King apparently chipped the edge on the Golden Gate.

Poland intervened in support of their favored candidate for the Kievan throne, Svatopolk the Accursed Prince, at war with his brothers, of whom he already killed a few. With a name like “The Accursed”, you have to know that’s a fine and reputable member of society right there.

Sviatopolk I of Kiev.jpg

What is it with Western-allied countries constantly supporting the LEAST popular person they possibly could during a military intervention! Svatopolk is known as “Accursed” in Ukrainian histography as well, not only Russian, so let no one claim Poland was supporting the “Ukrainian” candidate. At this time in history, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians were completely indistinguishable. Svatopolk was married to the daughter of the Polish King, and possibly responsible for the murder of his brothers Boris and Gleb. (Other sources claim he was their uncle)

The Polish intervention would be the equivalent of Russia invading Poland in support of their own candidate for the Polish presidency, (who happens to be married into a powerful Russian family).

The Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia 1349

Galicia-Volhn was one of the divisions of Kievan Rus’, existing on what is now Western Ukraine. Its history is long and fascinating, and beyond the scope of this article.

It’s most famous capitol was Lvov, Ukraine’s most western city, considered to be very Polish. This Old Rus’ Kingdom actually extended into small parts of eastern Poland before their lands were seized and their identity was assimilated into Poland. A Heavy Polish-Catholic influence can been seen in Western Ukraine to this day – even the dialect is Polish influenced.

Jesuit Catholic Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Lvov

In 1349, despite attempts to obtain an alliance with Poland, the westernmost Kingdom of Rus’ was invaded by Poland, ending its independence. By 1362, Kiev was conquered by Lithuania, which lettered entered into a permanent union with Poland – Rzeczpospolita – The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Poland occupied Rus’ territories (including in modern Russia) for centuries, until the great reunification of Ukraine with Russia under Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky in 1652. Some western lands were still occupied centuries after that.

But that was so long ago…

I realize there will be people who refuse to accept the fact that Russia is a continuation of Rus’, and others will say those other examples are far too early. One could argue that citing 11th-century events as examples of Polish aggression towards Russia would be like considering the Norman Invasion in 1066 as French Aggression against England.

It remains immature and naive to think events that occurred in the past have no effect on the modern world. The formation of a nation happens over the course of hundreds of ages, as a result, today’s wars could be affected by events centuries ago. Most of today’s issues in Europe are largely the result of WW1 (which lead to the second), and many consider the Sykes-Picot Agreement to be a source of the Middle East woes to this very day. This is part of the reason why progressivist historiography goes wrong. The idea of endless progress aside, Human civilization does not go endlessly forward with the past becoming irrelevant, history proves in many ways, we are still fighting over the same basic things today as we were in the medieval period.

Nevertheless, Poland continued to attack Russia in the Early Modern Period.

The Time of Troubles 1593-1618

The time of troubles was…well…one of the worst periods in Russian history. It stands together with the Mongol Invasion/Tatar Yoke, The Bolshevik Revolution, and the Neo-Liberal invasion of the 1990’s. Poland invaded Russia and went as far as the Moscow Kremlin…they occupied the Moscow Kremlin, and for around a decade, it looked like Russia was about to collapse.

Prince Dmitri begged to lead an army to defend Russia against Poland

There were multiple imposters claiming to be Czar (The False Dmitris), a famine which practically killed a third of the country, and roving bands of pillaging marauders everywhere…it was a very, very, very bad time.

During the Polish Occupation, they imprisoned the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Homogenous, demanding he blessed the Polish Army. When he refused, the beat and starved the elderly monk to death in a dungeon.

The Polish King Sigismund, with the help of greedy Russian Boyars who betrayed the Motherland, made a claim to the Russian Throne, seeking to incorporate all of Russia into the commonwealth. Poland already occupied the Russian city of Smolensk prior to the conflict. The Polish invasion of Russia was so brutal, peaceful monks took part in the defense of Russia.

The conflict only ended when Prince Pozharsky and Citizen Kuzma Minin helped organize an army to retake the Kremlin, and to elect a new Czar. During the election, Prince Wladyslaw of Poland was considered a candidate, and Polish influence was still strong, however, Michael Romanov was elected instead, ending the Time of Troubles. A truce was signed in 1618, but Poland still occupied Smolensk, and when Wladyslaw was later crowned, he refused to relinquish his claim to the Russian throne.

Polish Soldiers murdering Ivan Susanin who lead them into the woods to save the Czar in Glinka’s famous opera “Life for the Czar”

The Smolensk War 1632-1634

The Smolensk War was essentially a continuation of the previous unresolved hostilities. Russia attempted to reclaim Smolensk from Poland. The result was simply the status quo prior to the war, in Poland’s favor. The Polish King did renounce his claim to the Russian throne, however.

Russo-Polish War (The War for Ukraine) 1654-1667

The first major Russian offensive against Poland happened during the Khmelnitsky uprising, when the Cossacks asked their Russian brothers for aid. The famous Polish book “With Fire and Sword” was set during this time period. The final sentence of the book perfectly describes the Polish-Russian conflict:

Hatred Grew the Hearts of Men and poisoned the blood of brotherly peoples.

You can read the book here in PDF form, or watch the Polish-Ukrainian movie with English subtitles:

Hetman Bogdan Zinovii Khmelnitsky, a Russian-Ukrainian hero lead the Cossacks of Zaporozhia in full rebellion against Poland who had been occupying them and depriving them of their rights for centuries. Polish nobles had largely supported the Union of Brest in 1595-96, which created the Uniate (Catholic) Church in Ukraine. The “Unia” was just as dangerous to Russian Orthodox culture, as Polish armies were to Russian lands. Many Orthodox Churches were confiscated and forced to become Catholic, more by local Catholic magnates than the Commonwealth itself, known for its strong religious freedoms, though they did little to prevent the forced conversions.

This first major Russian victory against Poland marked the first time Moscow actively attacked Poland. The First Russo-Polish war ultimately resulted in Russia reclaiming ancient Russian land like Smolensk and Kiev long occupied by Poland-Lithuania. It was hardly an offensive of Russia against the Polish heartlands. Before Russian armies ever set foot in Poland, Polish armies had conquered the westernmost Rus’ principality, and later sacked Moscow, after occupying Kiev for centuries.

Russia begins to expand

Poland began its steady decline after a series of foreign invasions. The Swedes destroyed hundreds of Polish cities and churches during the Deluge, and sacked Warsaw. No one today speaks of Swedish aggression against Poland. Between 1772-1795, Poland was partitioned thrice, and the final time, she ceased to exist as a state. While Russia did take a portion of Poland, the country was equally partitioned by Prussia and Habsburg Austrian Empire. Russia had been invaded by Poland numerous times prior to these tragic partitions.

The Patriotic War of 1812 (Napoleonic Wars)

A little-known fact is that Polish troops played a major role in Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, particularly at Smolensk. The fact that Russians and Polish-Lithuanian troops have been fighting for Smolensk since the Middle Ages proves the cyclical nature of human civilization. Poles fought for Napoleon with the hopes of the resurrection of Poland. The Polish national anthem even mentions how the nation will be reformed:

March, march, Dąbrowski,
From the Italian land to Poland.
Under your command
We shall rejoin the nation.
We’ll cross the Vistula, we’ll cross the Warta,
We shall be Polish.
Bonaparte has given us the example
Of how we should prevail.

Every Russian soul can understand what it means to fight for the survival of your Motherland, especially when its fellow Slavs fighting. This is just another example of the many times Polish troops spilled Russian blood during an invasion of Russia.

In Our Time

The details of the Great Patriotic War are worthy of their own articles, as volumes could be written about them. Regardless of how the war began, their fellow Slavs in the Red Army liberated Poland from Nazi Germany. Russian and Polish soldiers died fighting side by side in WW2.

In the photo above, Russian Marshal Zhukov and Polish Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky of the CCCP greet Marshal Montgomery in Berlin, after the Soviet Union won the war in 1945. Another famous Polish-Russian was the father of the Russian space program which put the first man in space, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky.

Tsiolkovsky.jpg

If any Poles hold Soviet security services responsible for anti-polish actions, they should consider the founder of the first Soviet secret service was also Polish (Dzerzhinsky).

Despite all the conflicts, from a Russian perspective, one can consider the Polish peoples (not the governments) to be brothers.

Now, in a most cynical act, Poland has been demolishing red army memorials, an act which Russia considers highly Russophobic. Not all Poles agree with those moves, and a group of Polish activists has vowed to protect the monuments to their shared Slavic history, as RT covered in a great video.

In conclusion, history has revealed that the long history of conflict between Poland and Russia was initiated by Poland. Poland invaded Kiev in the 11th century, and occupied Ukraine until the 17th when they captured Moscow during Russia’s Time of Troubles. It was only after the 17th century did Russian soldiers ever set foot on Polish soil. Poland started historical conflicts, Russia merely reacted to them, and finally won, after taking heavy losses early on.

This is not to blame Poland, but rather to end the one-sided discussion of Russian-Polish history as if Russia is always the aggressor and Poland is an innocent victim. The time has long come to set aside the age-old conflicts.

Destroying Soviet monuments and crying about imaginary Russian aggression in the 21st century doesn’t help anyone but those who want Slavic peoples to continue fighting instead of uniting.

When the Polish Primer Minister speaks about the imaginary Russian threat to Poland, he fails to realize a greater and real threat is this endless hatred of Russia in Poland. The Russophobia is making it impossible to move on to friendly, normal relations.

The past is the past, both nations have invaded each other, and for the sake of Polish and Russian children, the hatred needs to end.

The conflict between the two Slavic peoples is best understood by the words of a famous Polish Author Henryk Sienkiewicz:

Hatred grew in the hearts of men and poisoned the blood of brotherly peoples. ~ Nienawiść wrosła w serca i zatruła krew pobratymczą ~ Ненависть вросла в сердца и отравила кровь двух братских народов. – With Fire and Sword

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While US seeks to up the ante on pressure on the DPRK, Russia proposes easing sanctions

These proposals show the dichotomy between the philosophy of US and Russian foreign policy

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The United States last week accused the DPRK of violating refined petroleum caps imposed as a part of UN nuclear sanctions dating back to 2006, and is therefore submitting a proposal to cut all petroleum product sales to North Korea.

The Trump administration is keen on not only preserving pressure on North Korea over its nuclear arms development, but in increasing that pressure even as DPRK Chairman, Kim Jong-Un, is serially meeting with world leaders in a bid to secure North Korea’s security and potential nuclear disarmament, a major move that could deescalate tensions in the region, end the war with the South, and ease global apprehensions about the North’s nuclear arsenal.

Meanwhile, Russia is proposing to the UNSC sanctions relief in some form due to the North’s expressed commitment to nuclear disarmament in the light of recent developments.

Reuters reports:

MOSCOW/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia’s envoy to North Korea said on Wednesday it would be logical to raise the question of easing sanctions on North Korea with the United Nations Security Council, as the United States pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.

“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernize North Korea’s energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernization.

The U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.

China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions.”

North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time,” diplomats said. The same day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the importance of sanctions enforcement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is due to informally brief U.N. Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday.

Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea during his briefing on Friday.

In a tweet on Wednesday Trump said he elicited a promise from Russian President Vladimir Putin to help negotiate with North Korea but did not say how. He also said: “There is no rush, the sanctions remain!”

The United States accused North Korea last week of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.

The United States submitted the complaint to the U.N. Security Council North Korea sanctions committee, which is due to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all U.N. member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.

Such decisions are made by consensus and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.

When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street. The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”

The proposals of both the United States and Russia are likely to be vetoed by each other, resulting no real changes, but what it displays is the foreign policy positions of both nuclear powers towards the relative position of the DPRK and its rhetorical move towards denuclearization. The US demonstrates that its campaign of increased pressure on the North is necessary to accomplishing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula, while Russia’s philosophy on the matter is to show a mutual willingness to follow through on verbal commitment with a real show of action towards an improved relationship, mirroring on the ground what is happening in politics.

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EU and Japan ink free trade deal representing over 30% of global GDP

The free trade agreement represents a victory for free trade in the face of growing protectionism

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In a bid to preserve free trade and strengthen their trade partnership, the European Union and Japan have finished a free trade zone agreement that has been sitting in the pipeline for years.

The present global economic outlook provided the needed spur to action to get the ball rolling again and now it has finally reached the end zone and scored another point for free and open trade against the growing influence of protectionism, which has been creeping up with alarming rapidity and far reaching consequences in recent months.

Under the deal, Japan will scrap tariffs on some 94% of goods imported from Europe and the EU in turn is canning 99% of tariffs on Japanese goods.

Between the European Union and Japan, the trade deal impacts about 37% of the world’s GDP, making it one of the largest and impactful of such agreements.

The Japan Times reports:

Top European Union leaders and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signed an economic partnership agreement Tuesday in Tokyo, a pact that will create a massive free trade zone accounting for 37 percent of the world’s trade by value.

European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hastily arranged their visit to Tokyo after Abe was forced to abruptly cancel plans to attend a July 11 signing ceremony in Brussels in the aftermath of flooding and mudslides in western Japan.

Japanese officials said the signing is particularly important to counter intensifying protectionism worldwide triggered by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Negotiations on the pact between Japan and the EU, which started in 2013, had stagnated for a time but regained momentum after Trump took office in January 2017.

“We are sending a clear message that we stand together against protectionism,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Abe after they signed the agreement.

“The relationship between the EU and Japan has never been stronger. Geographically we are far apart, but politically and economically we could be hardly any closer,” Tusk said. “I’m proud today we are taking our strategic partnership to a new level.”

Tusk stressed that the EU and Japan are partners sharing the same basic values, such as liberal democracy, human rights and rule-based order.

Abe also emphasized the importance of free and fair trade.

“Right now, concerns are rising over protectionism all around the world. We are sending out a message emphasizing the importance of a trade system based on free and fair rules,” he said.

The pact will create a free trade bloc accounting for roughly 30 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Japan and the EU hope to have the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by both parties, come into force by March.

Under the EPA, tariffs on about 99 percent of Japan’s exported goods to the EU will eventually be eliminated, while duties on 94 percent of EU’s exported items to Japan will be abolished, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The EPA will eliminate duties of 10 percent on Japan’s auto exports to the EU seven years after the pact takes effect. The current 15 percent duties on wine imports from the EU will be eliminated immediately, while those on cheese, pork and beef will be sharply cut.

In total, the EPA will push up domestic GDP by 1 percent, or ¥5 trillion a year, and create 290,000 new jobs nationwide, according to the government.

“The world is now facing raging waves of protectionism. So the signing ceremony at this time is particularly meaningful,” a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier this month on condition of anonymity.

“The impact for Japan is big,” the official said.

Fukunari Kimura, an economics professor at Keio University, said the EU is now trying to accelerate the ratification process.

“This is a repercussion of President Trump’s policies. They will try to ratify it before Brexit in March of next year,” he said in an interview with The Japan Times last week.

But the deal has raised concerns among some domestic farmers, in particular those from Hokkaido, the country’s major dairy producer.

According to an estimate by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the EPA will cut national production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry industries by up to ¥114.3 billion a year, with Hokkaido accounting for 34 percent of the predicted losses.

“The sustainable development of the prefecture’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is our top priority. We need to make efforts to raise our international competitiveness,” Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi said during a news conference July 10.

Japan and the EU had reached a basic agreement on the EPA in December.

Tokyo also led negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal in January 2017.

In March, 11 countries including Japan signed the so-called TPP11, or a revised TPP pact that does not include the U.S.

“The Japan-EU EPA is another important step for Japan to strengthen its trade relationship with key trading partners, and demonstrate that trade liberalization is alive and well, even if the United States is taking a different stance,” wrote Wendy Cutler, a former acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, in an email sent to The Japan Times last week.

“The EU deal also reduces Japanese dependence on the U.S. market and thus increases its leverage to resist unreasonable trade demands by the United States,” she wrote.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the EU, which accounts for 22 percent of the world’s GDP, was the destination for 11.4 percent of Japanese exports in 2016. In the same year, the figure for the U.S. was 20.2 percent and 17.7 percent for China.

In 2016, Japan’s exports to the EU totaled ¥8 trillion, while reciprocal trade was ¥8.2 trillion.

The deal provides tariff relief for both parties and can improve the quantity of trade between them, expand the economy and create many jobs. It also helps to further diversify their trade portfolios in order to mitigate the prospect of a single global trade partner wielding too much influence, which in turn provides a certain amount of cover from any adverse actions or demands from a single actor. In this way, current trade dependencies can be reduced and free and diversified trade is further bolstered.

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Russia just DUMPED $80 billion in US debt

The US Treasury published a report naming those countries that are the largest holders of US bonds. The list includes 33 countries, and for the first time Russia is no longer in it.

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Russia has stopped “inching towards de-dollarization” as I wrote about on July 3rd, and has now energetically walked out of the list of largest holders of US government bonds, hence this update. For the two months ending in May 2018, Moscow has offloaded more than $80 billion in US Government debt obligations.

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The $30 billion “minimum” listing Rubicon has been crossed by Russia.

As of the end of May, Russia had bonds worth only $ 14.9 billion. For comparison: in April, Russia was on the Treasury list with bonds totaling $48.7 billion. Even then it was offloading US$ debt securities as Russia owned in March over $96 billion. At the end of 2017, Russia had US treasury securities worth $102.2 billion. It is anyones guess what Russia will own when the June and July figures are released in August and September – probably less than today.

This simply serves as a confirmation that Russia is steadfastly following a conservative policy of risk diversification in several areas such as financial, economic, and geopolitical. The US public debt and spend is increasingly viewed as a heightened risk area, deserving sober assessment.

So where have all the dollars gone? The total reserves of the Russian Central Bank have not changed and remain at approximately the equivalent of $ 457 billion, so what we are seeing is a shift of assets to other central banks, other asset classes, just not US$ government bonds.

During the same time (April-May) as this US$ shift happened, the Russian Central Bank bought more than 1 million troy ounces of gold in 60 days, and continues.

For comparison sake, the maximum Russia investment in US public debt was in October 2010 totaling $176.3 billion. Today it is $14.9 billion.

The largest holders of US government bonds as of May are China ($ 1,183.1 billion), Japan ($ 1048.8 billion), Ireland ($ 301 billion), Brazil ($ 299.2 billion), Great Britain ($ 265 billion).

Using the similar conservative metrics that the Russian Central Bank has been rather successfully applying through this geopolitically and economically challenging period with the US and the US Dollar, it may not stretch the imagination too much that other countries such as China may eventually follow suit. Who will finance the debt/spend then?

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