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UNMIK Media Observer, Afternoon Edition, May 14, 2021

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Albanian Language Media:

• COVID-19: 49 new cases, 2 deaths (media)
• Decisions on UNMIK are “made by the Security Council” (RFE)
• German Ambassador on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (Koha)
• Demiri: All Kosovars living in Israel are safe (Albanian Post)

Serbian Language Media:

• Nine new cases of Covid-19 registered in Serbian areas (KoSSev)
• NATO: We remain committed to the region; we make all decisions by consensus (Kosovo Online)
• Zakharova: Only one state does not decide on the withdrawal of KFOR, it is a collective decision (Kosovo Online, Tanjug, KiM radio, Beta)
• Vucic with Pahor: High level of cooperation, Serbia for respecting borders as determined by UN decision (RTS)
• Odalovic: Excavations will begin at several locations in Kosovo (RTK2)
• PM Brnabic: Only dialogue, compromise can ensure long-term solution (Tanjug)
• Petkovic: Osmani either does not want dialogue, or doesn’t understand concept of politics of peace (TV Most)
• Petkovic: None of international community models for return of displaced persons made significant success (Kosovo-online)
• State Department on religious freedom: Decision on V. Decani’s land still ignored, 57 incidents targeting religious sites (KoSSev)
• HLC: No chance of ICJ ruling against Serbia for genocide in Kosovo (FoNet, N1)
• Office for KiM calls for investigation into all missing persons (N1)

Opinion:

• Western Balkans economic integration – why is it needed? (EWB)

International:

• Israel-Gaza Fighting Leaves Balkan Migrants Vulnerable (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

• A special budget line for shelters for victims of domestic violence (Koha)
• Ivanusa: Serbia shows how mass vaccination could affect epidemic (N1)

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Albanian Language Media:

  • COVID-19: 49 new cases, 2 deaths (media)
  • Decisions on UNMIK are “made by the Security Council” (RFE)
  • German Ambassador on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (Koha)
  • Demiri: All Kosovars living in Israel are safe (Albanian Post)

Serbian Language Media:

  • Nine new cases of Covid-19 registered in Serbian areas (KoSSev)
  • NATO: We remain committed to the region; we make all decisions by consensus (Kosovo Online)
  • Zakharova: Only one state does not decide on the withdrawal of KFOR, it is a collective decision (Kosovo Online, Tanjug, KiM radio, Beta) 
  • Vucic with Pahor: High level of cooperation, Serbia for respecting borders as determined by UN decision (RTS)
  • Odalovic: Excavations will begin at several locations in Kosovo (RTK2) 
  • PM Brnabic: Only dialogue, compromise can ensure long-term solution (Tanjug)
  • Petkovic: Osmani either does not want dialogue, or doesn’t understand concept of politics of peace (TV Most)  
  • Petkovic: None of international community models for return of displaced persons made significant success (Kosovo-online)
  • State Department on religious freedom: Decision on V. Decani’s land still ignored, 57 incidents targeting religious sites (KoSSev)
  • HLC: No chance of ICJ ruling against Serbia for genocide in Kosovo (FoNet, N1)
  • Office for KiM calls for investigation into all missing persons (N1)

Opinion:

  • Western Balkans economic integration – why is it needed? (EWB)

International:

  • Israel-Gaza Fighting Leaves Balkan Migrants Vulnerable (Balkan Insight)

Humanitarian/Development:

  • A special budget line for shelters for victims of domestic violence (Koha)
  • Ivanusa: Serbia shows how mass vaccination could affect epidemic (N1)

 

 

Albanian Language Media  

 

COVID-19: 49 new cases, 2 deaths (media)

Kosovo has recorded 49 cases of COVID-19 and two deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours. There are 5,904 active cases of COVID-19 in Kosovo. 310 persons have recovered from the virus during this time.

Decisions on UNMIK are “made by the Security Council” (RFE)

Changes to the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) requires a decision by the Security  Council. This is what UNMIK spokeswoman Sanam Dolatshahi told Radio Free Europe on Friday after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said on May 13 that his country received information from intelligence sources that one of the great powers will soon officially request the withdrawal of KFOR forces and UNMIK from Kosovo.

“Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) defines the mandate of the international civilian and security presences in Kosovo, and, as such, any adjustments to the Mission requires a decision by the Security Council,” Dolatshahi said in her reply.   

Vucic told reporters in Belgrade on Thursday that he cannot say which power will ask for this but that the information he got is from “official sources”.

Vucic also said he will try to discuss the issue with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in their meeting in Brussels on May 17.

The UNMIK mission operates according to UNSC Resolution 1244 which was a compromise between Western countries and Russia to end the conflict in Kosovo. The mission is status neutral. After Kosovo declared its independence in February 2008, UNMIK transferred all competencies to local institutions.

Kosovo’s institutions have called in the past for UNMIK to be reformed and for there to be only a UN representative office in Kosovo.

German Ambassador on genocide lawsuit against Serbia (Koha)

German Ambassador to Kosovo, Jorn Rohde, said Kosovo’s eventual genocide lawsuit against Serbia could be problematic and not the right way forward. “I fully understand the importance of facing the past. However, the issue of filing a lawsuit against another country I think is very problematic and maybe not the right way forward. Because this would be a very lengthy process, many things in Kosovo could be delayed and it is not known how it would end. It is uncertain if you go to the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice. And then politically, to sue a country for genocide means to send the whole country to court … It is very important, for Germany too, when we look at the history of my country, to face the past, but the guilt is always individual, and this should be the way. I think in the current circumstances, if you ask me if this is the right step, my answer would be no it’s not. I have also seen that the government is planning to establish an institute to collective evidence, but this could be used to sue individual persons, as was the case with the Tribunal for Yugoslavia,” Rohde said.

Demiri: All Kosovars living in Israel are safe (Albanian Post)

Kosovo’s Ambassador to Israel Ines Demiri told Albanian Post today that all Kosovar nationals living in Israel are safe. “All Kosovars living in Israel are safe,” she said in a brief reply to the news website. Demiri however did not disclose further details about the whereabouts of Kosovars in Israel. “Please send all questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” she said.

 

 

 

Serbian Language Media

 

Nine new cases of Covid-19 registered in Serbian areas (KoSSev)

Out of 76 tested samples nine were positive for Covid-19 in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo, Crisis Committee of Mitrovica North announced yesterday, KoSSev portal reports.

The new cases were registered as follows: four in Mitrovica North, two in Leposavic, and one each in Zubin Potok and Gracanica.

Currently there are 148 active cases in the Serbian areas.

A total of 147 people died in the Serb-populated areas in Kosovo since the outbreak of the pandemic. 

NATO: We remain committed to the region; we make all decisions by consensus (Kosovo Online)

NATO is committed to the region, and all decisions are made by consensus of all members of the alliance, portal Kosovo Online was told by this military alliance when asked about the statement of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that “soon a great power will demand the withdrawal of UNMIK and KFOR from Kosovo and Metohija “.

An unnamed NATO officer stressed the important role of the Alliance for security in Kosovo.

“NATO has been contributing to the stability of the Western Balkans for years and remains committed to the region. Our KFOR mission was established based on Security Council Resolution 1244, to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for the benefit of all communities living in Kosovo. All decisions in NATO, including the staying of KFOR, are brought by consensus of all 30 allies,” an unnamed NATO officer said in a written response to Kosovo Online.

Zakharova: Only one state does not decide on the withdrawal of KFOR, it is a collective decision (Kosovo Online, Tanjug, KiM radio, Beta) 

It is not only one state that decides on the withdrawal of KFOR from Kosovo, it is a collective decision, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, commenting on the possibility of KFOR leaving, which Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic talked about on Thursday, reported Tanjug.

“There are certain structures that give credentials and send missions to the regions. It does not happen spontaneously; the parties coordinate it. Within these structures, mechanisms are discussed, decisions are made, it is not a decision of one state, but is made collectively, in accordance with international law. It is in this context that these issues need to be discussed,” Zakharova said at a press conference, reported Sputnik.

She also referred to the recent visit of Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman to Pristina and his statement that Croatia intends to open a military base in Kosovo.

“We are not aware of the Croatian side’s plans to open a military base. As for the foreign military presence in the province, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1244, that function is performed only by KFOR,” said Zakharova.

Speaking about the frequent attacks on Serbian churches in Kosovo, she pointed out that international missions in Kosovo “are obliged to take measures to ensure the security of religious buildings and believers. Russia also persistently is calling for that”.

She strongly condemned the violence, as she said, of ”radical Albanians, which has been going on for years, and whose target is the Serbs and Orthodox shrines”.

“This best shows the unsustainability of Kosovo’s quasi-statehood and proves that this region has been turned into a criminal black hole on the map of Europe,” said the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman.

Vucic with Pahor: High level of cooperation, Serbia for respecting borders as determined by UN decision (RTS)

As of July this year Slovenia would take over the presidency over the EU presidency and for us Slovenian support on Serbia’s EU path is important, President Aleksandar Vucic said following the meeting with his counterpart Borut Pahor.

In addition to the “tete-a-tete” meeting, Vucic and Pahor would meet members of the two countries’ delegations and the main topic discussed would be the Brdo-Brioni Summit due on Monday.

Vucic also said a high level of bilateral relations between Serbia and Slovenia has been confirmed during the meeting, adding he conveyed to his Slovenian colleague Serbia’s potion regarding Kosovo issue, and that this issue must be resolved with compromise, through the dialogue since frozen conflict was never a good solution, something that could also be seen today with examples of escalation of such conflicts.

“I believe that our position is based on the principle of respecting international law, on solid legal grounds. Our position is not easy, it is clear we have a different stance on Kosovo than 22 (EU) member states”, Vucic said.

He also noted Serbia advocates for and wishes to have dialogue with Pristina under EU’s auspices.

“We were ready in May, in June; we were always ready, as frozen conflict is not good. You see how it ends, every five year someone ‘defreezes’ it. We do not need that, to leave the conflict to some future generations, but to make some sort of compromise”, Vucic said.

“As to whether we will be successful or not I can’t guarantee that, as it takes two to tango. We shall see what the other side thinks and if they are ready for the dialogue”, Vucic concluded.  

Odalovic: Excavations will begin at several locations in Kosovo (RTK2) 

The President of the Commission for Missing Persons of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, Veljko Odalovic stated as a guest on the RTK2 show ”Razgovor” that excavations at several locations would begin in the process of searching for the missing in Kosovo. Odalovic said that Belgrade has so far given more than 2,500 documents from its archives, while Pristina has not submitted any, reported RTK2. 

Odalovic pointed out that Belgrade had submitted a request to check several locations in Kosovo, suspected to be mass graves. These are Kosare, Javor near Suva Reka, Dojnice near Prizren, Baljevac, Lapusnik and Budusavci, Odalovic added, saying that they are waiting for the permission of the judicial authorities.

“We expect to start with the first activities this month and to do it continuously. In the end, that should be on the wave of statements of Vjosa Osmani and Albina Kurt, and their priority of resolving the fate of over 1,600 missing people, showing that they want to take care of all missing persons without differences,” Odalovic said.

He said that the works on the location Kizevak near Raska, where the remains of Kosovo Albanians were found, would be completed in the next two weeks. Also, the plan was to examine two more locations, which were pointed out by the Pristina side, Odalovic said, and added that he expects the same responsibility from Pristina, as Belgrade showed.

 “Through the mechanism of the Working Group of Serbia, that is, the Belgrade delegation submitted over 2,500 different documents, and received none. That shows that we were extremely responsible, because according to our documents, everything has been done so far,” he said. 

So far, 907 bodies from the time of the 1999 conflict have been discovered in mass graves in Serbia, said the guest of the RTK2 show, and pointed out that the Belgrade side was also working on discovering the fate of Uksim Hoti, as well as all others on the missing list. As a priority he stated the solving of the remains of 350 bodies or body parts in the morgue in Pristina.

 “I’m not sure that they are all from the conflicts from the period 1998 and 2000, 2001, but that maybe during those exhumations, those teams that were digging through Kosovo and Metohija exhumed some bodies that were buried without having anything to do with the conflict and now there is no match there, the family thinks that they buried the remains, and they do not know that they are in the morgue,” said Odalovic.

The President of the Commission for Missing Persons of the Government of Serbia also points out the problem of misidentification, citing the case of EULEX, which exhumed 88 bodies in Mitrovica, of which 17 were misidentified. That is why all the families of the missing should donate blood in order to compare the data and solve these cases, states Odalovic.

“The more cases resolved, the overall situation relaxes and can be a good factor in reconciliation. It will not solve the global story, because in order to solve it, then the institutions would have to face investigations into crimes committed, because no one disappeared here by going to pick strawberries or flowers, but those are all crimes committed against people,” Odalovic said.

Veljko Odalovic was convinced that with greater honesty and commitment of the institutions in Pristina, the problem of missing persons would be recognized as a priority, saying that this issue was primarily civilizational and humane, and that the families of the missing expect it to be resolved. Criminals should not be allowed to walk freely, but need to receive the deserved punishment, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, concluded the president of the commission for missing persons of the Government of Serbia.

RTK2 recalled that out of 6054 missing, 1639 people are still searched for, of which 570 are Serbs and members of other non-Albanian nationalities.

PM Brnabic: Only dialogue, compromise can ensure long-term solution (Tanjug)

Serbian PM Ana Brnabic said at the Athens Delphi Economic Forum on Thursday she did not understand how dialogue with Belgrade was not the main priority for Pristina, and added that only dialogue and compromise could lead to a long-term solution, without which there would be no stability, investments or future for young people.

In a discussion with Athanasios Ellis, editor-in-chief of the Kathimerini daily, she said that, even though the dialogue had been expected to be spurred by the Washington Agreement and the appointment of an EU special envoy, changes had taken place in Pristina.

She noted that the PM of the Pristina provisional institutions Albin Kurti believed the dialogue was not a key priority for Pristina.

“I do not really understand that because I do think the dialogue should be the key priority,” she noted, adding that there would be no long-term solution without dialogue.

She said Belgrade was eagerly awaiting a continuation of the dialogue with Pristina, but that the ball was now “on the other side.”

When asked if the new US administration played a role in the search for a solution, Brnabic said she believed the initiative was now with the EU.

See at: https://bit.ly/33LifAF

Petkovic: Osmani either does not want dialogue, or doesn’t understand concept of politics of peace (TV Most)  

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic said in a statement on Thursday that “contradiction and absurdity are the favorite rhetorical figures of politicians in Pristin”, considering that, as he stated, “they say on a daily basis that they want to talk to Belgrade representatives and sue Serbia for genocide”.

“If Pristina is sincere in its desire to solve problems through talks, then the ground for that is not prepared by sending meaningless messages about some kind of genocide lawsuit against the interlocutor, but by distancing from hate speech”, Petkovic added.

He opined that Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani either did not want a dialogue, and was mentioning Pristina’s alleged readiness for talks only courteously in order to avoid the slap on the wrist by the international community, or is completely incapable of understanding the concept of the politics of peace.

“It is completely clear Pristina has neither the basis nor the formal-legal possibility to sue Serbia for genocide, and this was a pathetic attempt to divert the public’s attention in Kosovo and Metohija from the fact that there will not be enough detention units in The Hague to receive all criminal from the so-called KLA”, Petkovic said and added that Osmani should take courageous political steps to direct its compatriots in the direction of confronting the crimes committed in their name.

Petkovic: None of international community models for return of displaced persons made significant success (Kosovo-online)

Office for Kosovo and Metohija Director Petar Petkovic spoke today with the UNHCR Head in Serbia Francesca Bonelli and informed her about the efforts Serbian Government makes to help displaced persons return to Kosovo, Kosovo-online portal reports.

As the Office for KiM said in a statement Petkovic pointed out problems relating to ensuring the right to return, finding an efficient mechanism for property restitution as well as advancing the quality of their everyday lives and socio-economic status.

“Since 1999 up to date 220.000 persons from Kosovo and Metohija were registered as displaced persons. Out of this number only two percent had returned to their areas of origin or other Serb settlements in Kosovo and Metohija, and this is the smallest percent of the return in the post-conflict areas in the world”, Petkovic stressed.

He also drew attention to the incidents targeting returnees, including the latest the fifth row in a row targeting returnee families in the village of Dubrava in Istok municipality.

Petkovic also underlined this was not about isolated incidents, but rather, as he said, about “deliberate and systematic intimidation and planning of new expulsion of returnees from their places of origin”.

He also presented the “Sunny Valley” project in northern Kosovo as a first model of sustainable return, adding that none of the models of the international community to return displaced persons made significant results.

State Department on religious freedom: Decision on V. Decani’s land still ignored, 57 incidents targeting religious sites (KoSSev)

The US Department of State published a new report – the 23rd such report in a row – in which religious freedoms in almost 200 countries and territories including Kosovo were analyzed. 

Failure to implement the decision on the property of the Visoki Decani Monastery, the attempt to illegally build a road in the protected zone of this monastery, the lawsuit of the University of Pristina for confiscation of property of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) in Pristina, the protest by Albanians over the pilgrimage of Serbs in Djakovica/Gjakova – were some of the findings of the State Department report on Kosovo for 2020,KoSSev portal reports.

The State Department report also reveals, referring to the data of the Kosovo police, that a total of 57 incidents were registered in 2020. The majority of incidents targeted Muslim community sites and none were religiously motivated. On the other hand, the Serbian Orthodox Church claims that some incidents were religiously and ethnically motivated, the report states.

The Constitutional Court’s decision on the property of Visoki Decani has not been implemented yet, debts to the SOC.

On September 4th, the Kosovo and Serbian governments signed a list of commitments in Washington, D.C., that included a pledge to domestically protect and promote freedom of religion, renew interfaith communication, protect religious sites, implement judicial decisions pertaining to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), and continue restitution of Holocaust-era heirless and unclaimed Jewish property, the Department of State report recalled.

The report also underlined that the local and central governments in Kosovo continue to refuse to implement a 2016 Constitutional Court decision that recognized the SOC’s Visoki Decani Monastery’s ownership of approximately 24 hectares (59 acres) of land in the monastery’s vicinity.

Read more at: https://bit.ly/2RNJp7c

HLC: No chance of ICJ ruling against Serbia for genocide in Kosovo (FoNet, N1)

Natasa Kandic, the founder of the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) in Serbia said Wednesday there was no chance International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule that Serbia committed genocide in the 1998-1999 war in Kosovo, N1 reports.

Speaking to Pristina-based  Gazeta Express Kandic said there was no basis for the lawsuit announced by Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti.

She told Kosovo authorities they should inform the European Union and United Nations about the impunity of members of the former Yugoslav Army and Serbia’s Interior Ministry (MUP) for “the murder of 7,000 Albanian civilians and tell the Europe and UN that Serbia treated those responsible as heroes”. For that, Kandic added, Kosovo would have the support of Serbia’s civil society and HLC.

“The Centre would always support justice for victims of the Serb forces, but in the case of genocide charges, we cannot back a political idea which doesn’t contribute to the rule of law and justice for victims“, Kandic said.

See at: https://bit.ly/3hxnvQe

Office for KiM calls for investigation into all missing persons (N1)

Serbian Government Office for Kosovo and Metohija called on Friday for an investigation into all the people missing in Kosovo since 1998, N1 reports.

“We demand the continuing of investigations into all missing persons, equal rights for all victims regardless of religion or ethnicity”, the Office said in a statement.

“Serbia will continue remembering its compatriots and will seek the truth and justice for the kidnapped and killed and their families who have the right to know what happened to their loved ones” the statement added, recalling that the “start of the mass suffering of the Serbian civilian population of Kosovo started with the kidnapping of a miner Zarko Spasic on May 14, 1998”.

The Office also said the miner is still missing along with a number of other Serbs.

The Office for Kosovo and Metohija said it would continue demanding that the international community shed light on the fate of missing and abducted Serbs, adding that the reconciliation process has to be based on the truth about crimes and personal responsibility.

“Hiding a crime is also a crime and the reconciliation process in the region depends greatly on the process of shedding light on the fate of missing persons”, the statement concluded.

 

 

 

Opinion

 

Western Balkans economic integration – why is it needed? (EWB)

By Tanja Miscevic

For the Western Balkan six economies, regional cooperation is proclaimed as a condition for their European integration path. Stability Pact, Regional  Cooperation Council, CEFTA, RYCO, Energy Community and Transport Community as well as Berlin Process as of 2014 are some of the initiatives and organisations created for operationalising this goal. But, obviously, if regional cooperation is taken just as a condition, it will not serve the purpose – regional cooperation should be considered as a necessity for all.

That is why at the Sofia Summit of the Berlin Process in November 2020, the leaders of the Western Balkans recognised the need to start integrating better economically– amongst them and with the EU. They launched the Common Regional Market initiative, which is structured around the four freedoms (free movement of goods, services, capital and people) while also covering aspects of digital, investment, innovation and industry policy.

This makes it the most ambitious regional integration effort to date in the Western Balkans! It should be stressed that regional economic integration in the Western Balkans is based on the EU rules and closer association to the EU Single Market in order to help the candidate and potential candidates in their accession process. Furthermore, as a virtuous circle, the accession process and the gradual compliance with the EU acquis will help strengthen intra-regional integration.

See more at:https://bit.ly/3eLEvAu

 

 

 

International

 

Israel-Gaza Fighting Leaves Balkan Migrants Vulnerable (Balkan Insight)

The latest escalation between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza has drawn condemnation, protests and concern for the fate of the tens of thousands of people from the Balkans living in the conflict area.

As hostilities between Israel and Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip entered a third consecutive day, governments in the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe have expressed concern for the safety of their citizens working and living in the area, after seven Israelis and 72 Palestinians were reported to have died.

See more at: https://bit.ly/3hrtENR

 

 

Humanitarian/Development

 

A special budget line for shelters for victims of domestic violence (Koha)

Kosovo’s Deputy Minister of Justice told the paper on Thursday that the Ministry is planning to have a special budget line for shelters of victims of domestic violence. “We are trying to have a permanent budget line for shelters in the Republic of Kosovo. Given the financial difficulties faced by the shelters … we will create a permanent budget line that will guarantee their financial stability. We are discussing the matter with the Ministry of Finance to find an appropriate solution,” Deputy Minister Nita Shala said.

Although the Ministry did not specify the amount of the budget line, the paper learns that the budget will be around €1 million and that it is pending approval from the Ministry of Finance. Representatives of the Ministry of Finance were not available for comment.

Adelina Berisha from the Kosovo Women’s Network said the biggest share of the work is already done and that the only problem is the timely allocation of the funds. “The Kosovo Women’s Network has advocated for a special budget line for a long time now … Currently, the Kosovo budget has a line titled ‘services for shelters’, ‘basic services for shelters’ and €1 million have been allocated for these services for this year. However, the problem so far has been in the implementation of this line. This is why the current government does not have a lot of work in terms of creating the line because it already exists. The government should now focus on the timely implementation of the line, to create mechanisms that will not allow shelters to close due to lack of funds,” Berisha said.

The paper notes that Kosovo currently has eight shelters for victims of domestic violence, a shelter for children without parental care and a shelter for potential victims of trafficking.   

Ivanusa: Serbia shows how mass vaccination could affect epidemic (N1)

Serbia is not a wealthy country, but it has managed to obtain enough vaccines and establishes the immunisation system available to all, Marijan Ivanusa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) director in Belgrade, has said on Wednesday.

Speaking to the public broadcaster RTS, he said it was evident in the world and Serbia how the vaccination could bring us back to everyday life. He also appealed to people to vaccinate and apply all anti-epidemic measures.

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