Friday, 22 July 2022

Russia Declares Croatia a Hostile Country

ZAGREB, 22 July 2022 - The Russian government has added Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Slovakia and Slovenia to its list of hostile countries, against which it is taking countermeasures, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on Friday.

The document gives the number of local staff that can be recruited by the embassies and consulates of these countries in Russia.

Croatia and Slovenia can no longer employ local staff  in their diplomatic and consular posts. Greece is allowed to hire up to 34 people, Denmark 20 and Slovakia 16.

"The list approved by the government is not final and could be expanded given the continued hostile actions of foreign states against Russian missions abroad,” the Russian government said in a statement.

In May last year, similar restrictions were imposed on the diplomatic missions of the United States and the Czech Republic.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Greenpeace Adriatic Protest Held in Front of Tanker Headed for Omisalj

May the 31st, 2022 - A Greenpeace Adriatic protest was held in front of a large tanker (SCF Samotlor) headed for the Port of Omisalj, which was transporting Russian oil.

As Morski writes, Greenpeace activists protested recently in front of the SCF Samotlor tanker, which was transporting Russian oil to the Port of Omisalj. They staged a protest ahead of a recently held European Union (EU) summit, urging EU political leaders to urgently impose an embargo on all Russian fossil fuels and speed up the energy transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Greenpeace pointed out that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine back in February, EU countries have spent more than 54 billion euros on Russian oil, gas and coal, which turns out to be co-financing the war still going on in ravaged Ukraine.

Hundreds of millions of euros continue to flow from EU countries into the Kremlin in exchange for Russian fossil fuels, and EU leaders have still failed to impose sanctions that would effectively curb this, what they deem to be an utterly immoral trade. In other words, and in the opinion of those who held the recent Greenpeace Adriatic protect, the European Union is still co-financing the war in Ukraine and such a practice must stop immediately.

''The EU must finally show true solidarity and impose an embargo on all Russian fossil fuels. No delays, no legal loopholes, no special treatment and exemption for any country,'' warned Eszter Matyas, campaign manager at Greenpeace CEE.

The Greenpeace Adriatic protest took place the day before the aforementioned summit, and the European Commission has proposed phasing out Russian oil imports in most EU member states, but not before the end of this year. Some countries like Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria could get even more time permitted. Recent comments from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen show that EU leaders are nowhere near an agreement, Greenpeace warned.

''The humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine will only continue to deepen if a weak embargo is imposed, or if nothing is imposed at all. The war in Ukraine should be a wake-up call for European Union leaders. Security in a world powered by fossil fuels simply doesn't exist. The current ban on all Russian fossil fuels can and must be a strong impetus for the development of renewables and energy efficiency across Europe. It's important not only because of climate security, but also because of its independence from autocratic regimes that trade in fossil fuels,'' said Petra Andric from Greenpeace Croatia.

The majority of oil consumption in the EU is accounted for by transport, while the EU is dependent on imports for as much as 97% of its oil products. A study commissioned by Belgium's Greenpeace offers guidance to those responsible for decarbonising Europe's transport sector by 2040, which could be powered by renewable energy without relying on biofuels. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently announced that a limited set of short-term transport measures could reduce consumption by as much as 2.7 million barrels of oil per day over the next four months. In Germany, short-term measures could reduce Russian oil imports by about a third, the global organization warns.

When it comes to the Greenpeace Adriatic protest, activists have also held similar protests in Ukraine since the start of the war, calling for an embargo on Russian fossil fuel imports to European countries including Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Greece, Hungary, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom and Croatia in late March.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Russia Says Disappointed with Croatia's Hostile Behaviour

ZAGREB, 26 May 2022 - Russia is disappointed with the hostile actions of the Croatian authorities in recent months, but hopes their mutually beneficial cooperation will be restored, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The statement was released on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Croatia and Slovenia, and the latter is also accused of "destroying bilateral relations."

Croatia and Slovenia have condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and joined in European sanctions against Moscow. As part of those measures, Zagreb in April expelled 18 Russian diplomats and six members of administrative staff.

"Unfortunately, the Croatian authorities have in recent months adopted a hostile position towards Russia that is in stark contrast with the quality of our bilateral relations, destroys their foundations and causes serious damage to the true interests of people in the two countries," the statement says.

Such destructive behaviour, it says, represents a "baleful approach that has no future".

"We believe common sense will prevail, and Croatia will return to the path of constructive dialogue, based, among other things, on the awareness of geopolitical realities and true national interests," the statement said.

Speaking of Slovenia, Moscow said that it was disappointed by its government's decision to take "entirely unprovoked hostile actions" aimed at "destroying bilateral relations despite the historical logic of their development."

"We are confident that such policy on the part of Slovenian authorities, which is contrary to the true interests of our friendly peoples, will eventually give way to a balanced position natural for Russian-Slovenian relations," the Russian ministry said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Dubrovnik Super Yachts Lacking, Turkey Set to Profit in 2022

May the 20th, 2022 - The classic sight of Dubrovnik super yachts which could be seen each and every summer in the Pearl of the Adriatic is severely lacking this year, with rich Russian yacht and villa owners avoiding Croatia entirely owing to sanctions. It seems Turkey is set to make the profit this year.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, a couple of years ago, there were no cruisers, but there were Dubrovnik super yachts that chose Croatia's southernmost city as their favourite destination, and spent up to half a million euros in Croatia in just three weeks. These were the absolute guests, especially last year when Croatia set a record in the number of yacht arrivals, so many that Dubrovnik has already been called the Croatian Monte Carlo, writes local portal Dubrovacki vjesnik.

However, this year no yacht owner has decided to go down to Dubrovnik, except for the one that was on a winter berth in the Port of Gruz. Whether the problem is the fact that the owners of luxury yachts are often Russians who will, understandably, avoid parts of Europe where they may have their property confiscated or something else, Dubrovacki vjesnik tried to find out from yacht managers.

Russian oligarchs have been left without their villas, yachts and money: "This war is a disaster for them"

"The reason for the absence of yacht owners is primarily the situation due to the war in Ukraine, and a large number of yacht owners across the Mediterranean have always been Russians. We don't expect them anywhere in the Mediterranean, not even in Croatia. Turkey will certainly benefit from this because many Russian-owned vessels are already in Turkey and so that country will definitely have a better season than us.

It's hard to predict how many there will be across the Mediterranean. So far, we're doing well, but I expect it will be a little less this season than the previous two pandemic-dominated summers. What the numbers will be, we'll see at the end of the season. This year there will also be fewer Americans because of the war in Europe,'' Dorijan Dujmic, the director of BWA Yachting Croatia.

Compared to 2021, there have been fewer private planes landing Dubrovnik Airport as well, and the reason is certainly the same - rich Russians are now bypassing Croatia, and Americans looking at a map of Europe still believe Croatia is too close to the ongoing conflict, as it seems only a few inches away from Ukraine on paper.

“Since the beginning of this year, about 247 business and general aviation flights (private flights) have been in operation at Dubrovnik Airport. Compared to last year during the same period, there was an increase in the number of aircraft operations (flights) of about 13.83 percent,'' said Ivan Maslac, the commercial director of Dubrovnik Airport.

Last year, a significant part of general and business aviation traffic was made up of larger privately owned aircraft (Bombardier Global Express, Gulfstream V, etc.), and Dubrovnik Airport expects a large number of general and business aviation traffic this year as well, which will more than likely be of the same profile. Of course, due to the sanctions imposed on Russia due to the war in Ukraine, we expect a smaller number of Russian passengers,'' he concluded.

For more, check out our travel section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

How Certain is it that Russia Will Suspend Gas to Croatia?

April 27, 2022 - Economist Damir Novotny was a guest on N1 Television's ''Novom Danu'', and commented on how certain is it that Russia will suspend gas to Croatia based on recent threats to Bulgaria and Poland.

Novotny said Russia's threat to stop supplying gas to Poland and Bulgaria is in some ways a warning to the entire European Union, as the Polish and Russian governments clash most verbally, reports Index.hr.

The economic analyst pointed out that he did not think that Russia would make a decision to stop supplying gas to Croatia.

"It is possible that Russia will suspend gas to Croatia, of course, but it is uncertain and we cannot predict anything because the Russian political elite is unpredictable at the moment, Putin's decisions are completely unpredictable, we cannot be sure about the direction of his decisions, especially economic ones'', said Novotny.

''He told the Russian public that the sanctions did not cause any damage to the Russian economy, which is simply not true. So I don’t believe there will be drastic blockades'', added Novotny.

What does an early warning about the gas situation mean?

He also explained what the government's early warning measure due to the gas situation means.

"This is a mechanism used by the governments of all European countries when gas storage facilities are emptied over the winter and refilled over the summer, and if the storage tenants do not refuel or do not fill it with that dynamic, prices are high and they are expected to fall over the summer to refill them, but that’s ungrateful because it’s hard to estimate gas prices at the moment. It is possible that it will start to descend during the summer, but it is not certain. All supply chains will be disrupted, Russian gas will not come to the EU market in the amount we are used to and prices will not fall over the summer'', Novotny said.

As for the norms of strategic stocks, he said that, according to publicly available information, we are below those stocks in terms of the amount of gas.

Gazprom: We are suspending gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland

Recall, Russian energy giant Gazprom claims to have cut off all gas supplies to both Bulgaria and Poland after both countries refused to start paying for deliveries in rubles.

Earlier, both Polish and Bulgarian gas suppliers said they had received official notifications from Gazprom that supplies would be suspended.

At one point early Wednesday, physical gas flows along the Yamal-Europa gas pipeline from Belarus to Poland fell to zero, but then gas supplies resumed. But then Gazprom confirmed that gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria were suspended.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Is Croatia Expelling Russian Diplomats? Hundreds of Names on Sanction List

April the 10th, 2022 - Is Croatia expelling Russian diplomats in the face of the horrendous invasion of Ukraine and the alleged war crimes that have since taken place there at the hands of Russian troops? The sanction list of Russian names is long indeed and the Security and Intelligence Agency is also involved.

As Morski writes, five months after, as he put it, he "discovered the warm and poetic soul of Sergei" and read poetry by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Russian, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Gordan Grlic Radman has written a decision to expel Russian diplomats from the Republic of Croatia.

This comes as a very important sign of solidarity and a response to the latest developments and brutal Russian aggression in Ukraine where we're being stunned by the crimes and horrors committed by the Russian army in that innocent country.

''In addition to expelling Russian diplomats, we are also actively working on freezing the property of those persons under sanctions,'' Minister Gordan Grlic Radman revealed for RTL. State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs Frano Matosic also added:

''There are 893 persons and 65 legal entities on our sanctions list. We expect this situation to change soon again, given that a new package of measures will be adopted in Brussels. Russian diplomats in Croatia, among other things, are being left without the luxury they enjoyed, primarily on the coast, as well as the freezing of the money in their accounts. Their companies are being frozen, in terms of preventing those persons on the sanctions list from using these economic resources to extract funds that could be passed on for aggression against Ukraine,'' said Matosic.

Otherwise, that number is much higher, because not all of the seized yachts whose connection with Russia is being established are counted. The real owners are known for three of them. Croatia doesn't decide on the sanctions independently, those decisions are made in Brussels. The rich often try to hide everything they have, so they register their property on distant islands and in third names, making it challenging to determine what is actually Russian-owned and what isn't.

When it comes to the question of whether or not SOA (Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency) helps in determining what is Russian property in Croatia, the answer is that of course it does.

The Russian Embassy in Zagreb is also closely following everything that is happening, and when asked about the expulsion of Russian diplomats from this country, they say that they don't want to comment on it until they receive official information from the Croatian Government.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Sberbank Sells Fortenova Stake to Hungarian Indotek Group

April the 10th, 2022 - The Russian Sberbank has now sold its former 43 percent stake in Fortenova to the Hungarian Indotek company, Fortenova CEO Fabris Perusko has announced.

As Jutarnji/Novac/Andrea Koscec writes, the Russian Sberbank has sold its 43 percent stake in the Fortenova Group to a Hungarian investment fund called Indotek Group, majority owned by one of the richest Hungarians of all, Daniel Jellinek, Bloomberg reported, and soon after, Fortenova confirmed the information on its website.

The price involved hasn't yet been announced, but it was pointed out that in order to conclude the transaction, it was necessary to provide solutions from the competent regulatory authorities across several markets.

In mid-March, Jutarnji list reported that it had "started an in-depth analysis process related to the possible sale of shares within the company" and then announced that Jellinek, who Forbes estimates has a net worth of around 300 million euros, was interested. It was speculated back then, although such processes usually take months, that given the development of the situation in Ukraine and the obvious interest of Sberbank to get out of ownership in Fortenova, an agreement could be reached long before it would otherwise be expected. A spokesman for Daniel Jellinek told Bloomberg that Jellinek sees the deal as a long-term investment, and Indotek will be a strategic partner of the Fortenova Group.

On the occasion of the signing of the sales contract and the announced change of ownership, Fabris Perusko, CEO and member of the Board of Directors of the Fortenova Group, welcomed the entry of Indotek into the ownership structure, which he said recognises as a long-term strategic partner in the co-ownership of Fortenova.

''Despite a possible change in co-ownership, the Fortenova Group continues to operate on a regular basis. Our operating companies are successfully managing market disruptions caused by rising operating costs and disruptions in some supply chains that our many customers aren't feeling and we're fully focused on preparing for this year's season from which we have significant expectations,'' said Perusko.

The Hungarian Indotek Group manages assets worth more than three billion euros in total, and according to its website, Indotek is a financial conglomerate owned by Hungarian and American investors, with a diversified business in real estate, financial services, but also logistics and transportation. The company employs 380 people, is headquartered in Budapest and has 12 branches across the country, as well as its own offices in Spain, Italy, Romania, Poland, Greece and here in Croatia.

Indotek has now become Fortenova's largest single shareholder, but - like the Russian Sberbank has been so far - it will have to seek the consent of the two remaining major shareholders - Pavle Vujnovac, the owner of Enna Group, and Russia's state-owned VTB Bank, which holds a seven percent stake in Fortenova, and is currently sanctioned.

The Fortenova Group is otherwise the largest food trader and producer in Southeastern Europe, and was formed after the settlement of the former Agrokor's creditors back in April 2019. Its financial situation has improved significantly over more recent years, as evidenced by its debt-to-operating ratio (EBITDA). It employs about 50,000 people.

For more, check out our business section.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Croatian Foreign Trade of Goods With Russia and Ukraine

24th March 2022 – An overview of the Croatian foreign trade of goods with Russia and Ukraine in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

It has been exactly one month since Russia has invaded Ukraine. Nobody knows how much more the war is going to last and we can only hope it will end soon. This is certainly one of the biggest humanitarian crises the European continent has seen in a long time. The West reacted rather promptly to the Russian invasion by imposing severe economic sanctions on the Russian Federation in an effort to persuade Russian leadership to stop the war.

Since the invasion has started, the European Union has adopted four packages of economic sanctions. Even though these sanctions still do not include all parts of the Russian economy, consumers and corporations are often choosing not to do business with Russia and Russian companies on their own initiative. I will provide an overview of the Croatian foreign trade of goods with Russia and Ukraine which will give us a better approximation of the Croatian position in these extreme circumstances.

EXPORTS

In 2021 Croatia exported 204 million Euros of goods to Russia which represents 1.1% of the total Croatian export of goods. In the last few years, Croatian export of goods to Russia has been on the rise, but they are still 28% lower than the level in 2013. In the same period, the relative share of exports to Russia has fallen from 2.9% to 1.1%.

On the other hand, Croatia has exported 58 million Euros worth of goods to Ukraine in 2021 which represents 0.3% of the total Croatian export of goods. In the observed period exports to Ukraine have been rising in absolute terms by 157% beating the total exports growth of 99%. In relative terms exports to Ukraine were fluctuating between 0.1% and 0.4%.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-1.png

When comparing exports to Russia and Ukraine to other markets we can see that their relative importance in terms of total Croatian exports is very small. The biggest Croatian trade partner is the European Union with 69.2% of exports, followed by CEFTA countries and other countries in America with 16.3% and 3.6% respectively. What is more Russian market does not come even close to the top ten exporting countries and is far behind the Croatian traditional trade partners such as Slovenia with 13%, Italy 12%, Germany 12%, and Hungary and Bosnia and Herzegovina both with 9%.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-2.png

In order to dig deeper into the structure of the Croatian exports of goods to Russia and Ukraine, I have used the official Combined Nomenclature (CN) from the European Union. The breakdown of the exports by the CN is provided by the DZS and the provided data is from 2020. In the case of both Russia and Ukraine, we can see that pharmaceutical products hold the largest share of exports with 39% and 32,2% respectively. The combined export of pharmaceutical products to Russia and Ukraine account for 8.62% of total Croatian export of the same category of products. Additionally, categories (85) and (12) can be found in both Russian and Ukrainian top 5 export categories and they make up 0.64% and 17.32% of the Croatian exports in those categories, respectively.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-3.png

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-4.png

IMPORTS

Croatian imports from Russia have amounted to 463 million Euros worth of goods in 2021, which was a rise of almost 100% compared to 2020. Despite the steep rise imports from Russia are still lower by 38% compared to 2013. The relative share of Russian imports in the total Croatian imports has fallen from 4,5% in 2013 to 1,6% in 2021.

In 2021 Croatia has imported 44 million Euros worth of goods from Ukraine which is a drop of 67% from the peak in 2013. The relative share of Ukrainian imports also fell in 2014 and is around 0.2% since then.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-5.png

Again, as with the exports, to put it into perspective we can observe the relative share of the Russian and Ukrainian imports compared to other markets. Not surprisingly, EU markets make up the largest share of Croatian imports with 76.5%, followed by CEFTA countries and other countries in Asia with 6.8% and 7.7% respectively. Here we see the same pattern as we did with exports, the Croatian economy is not very reliant on neither Russian nor Ukrainian imports. Moreover, Russia is not even close to Croatia’s biggest importers such as Germany 15%, Italy 13%, Slovenia 11%, Hungary 7%, and Austria 6%.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-6.png

When observing the CN categories, we can see that imports from Russia are dominated by mineral fuels and oils which make up 55.8% of total imports from Russia. However, the relative share of mineral fuels and oils from Russia makes up just 6.6% of total Croatian imports of the same category.  Not surprisingly other important categories are metals such as aluminum and copper as well as fertilizers.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-7.png

Croatian imports from Ukraine are more evenly distributed and two main categories are (84) and (85) which together account for 1/3 of imports and these are both important export categories to Ukraine as well.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-8.png

BALANCE OF TRADE

As seen on the graph below, Croatia ended 2021 with a positive trade balance with Ukraine in the amount of 14 million Euros. Since 2017 Croatia has maintained a trade surplus with Ukraine. On the other side, the Croatian trade balance with Russia was negative throughout the whole observed period. In 2021 Croatia had a trade deficit in the amount of 259 million Euros.

Croatian-foreign-frade-of-goods-with-russia-and-ukraine-9.png

To conclude Croatian foreign trade of goods is not very reliant on the Russian and Ukrainian markets, but the Croatian economy will still suffer the consequences of the imposed sanctions on Russia and from the resulting crisis. Some industries and even more companies are more exposed to these markets and they will hopefully manage this crisis in the best way they can. On the contrary, even though the trade relation with Russia and Ukraine is relatively insignificant, Croatia’s biggest trade partners are mostly European countries which are all impacted to a large extent and the spill-over effect is unfortunately unavoidable.

If you want to find out how the Russian Invasion of Ukraine has impacted the Croatian equity market click here.

All the information provided in this article is taken from the Croatian Bureau of Statistics. 

For more, check out our business section.

 

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Bizarre Fake Pro-Putin Zagreb IKEA Photos Circulating in Russia

March the 23rd, 2022 - The situation in Russia is bizarre to say the very least. With the media tightly controlled and threats of imprisonment imposed on those publicly opposing the invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, it's even odder to think that someone has employed their Photoshop skills into creating fake Zagreb IKEA photos which showcase Vladimir Putin.

Do you remember the quote that you'd wish on someone you weren't really the biggest fan in the world of? ''May you live in interesting times''. I think someone has said that to the majority of the population of the world over the last couple of years. As if a pandemic and now a war accompanied by soaring prices wasn't quite enough. Now someone has decided to try to frame Zagreb's IKEA store, of all places, as being a pro-Putin establishment.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Russian media, which can barely be called free-thinking or independent, reported this week that here in Zagreb, the employees of IKEA are pro-Putin. Yes, you read that right.

''In Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, IKEA employees posted photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin in support of the special operation in Ukraine," Russian media reported.

"In Zagreb, at the local IKEA, portraits of Vladimir Putin were placed in all photo frames in their salons. Obviously, the IKEA employees did it themselves," the Russian channel went onto try to claim to the Russian public.

Based on the results of the audit, IKEA was very quick to confirm that these were fake photos that the state agency RIA Novosti were publishing.

“These pictures are fake and not real photos from the real store. We have no other information so far,'' said a company spokeswoman of the extremely strange Zagreb IKEA photos. The fact that someone has too much time on their hands is evident, but trying to use an IKEA store to clutch at straws for Putin support is perhaps one of the oddest events in this dire situation so far. Even Blahaj the famous IKEA shark looks displeased sitting next to Vladimir.

For more, check our lifestyle section.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Russian Fortenova Co-Ownership Ending Following Ukraine Invasion

March the 21st, 2022 - Russian Fortenova co-ownership will be coming to an end following that country's unjustified invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. The Russian Fortenova co-ownership is otherwise through it's largest commercial bank, Sberbank.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, Russia's largest commercial bank, Sberbank, will soon cease to be a co-owner of Croatia's Fortenova Group (former Agrokor). Sberbank's 44 percent Russian Fortenova co-ownership stake will apparently be taken over by the Indotek group, backed by American-Hungarian capital, Vecernji list writes.

The majority owner of the Indotek group is Daniel Jellinek, who, at least according to Forbes magazine, ranks ninth on the list of the richest Hungarians in the world. According to Vecernji list, the in-depth recording process to make room for the business move has begun, and insiders expect the transaction to be concluded within a few weeks.

From the Croatian economic point of view, it is important that Indotek is, in both the business and capital sense, very well connected with the American business conglomerate Bohemian Group, which is owned by the powerful and rich American Stryker family.

Until recently, the Bohemian Group was the second largest single owner of Indotek after Jellinek, with an ownership share of 33 percent, and today it still participates with its capital in various Indotek projects. The Indotek Group is one of the leading investment management companies in all of Central and Eastern Europe.

The main activity of the group is the acquisition of real estate/property and corporate receivables, and their investment portfolio makes it one of the most important players in the region of Central and Eastern Europe.

One of the long-term benefits of this transaction which will end Russian Fortenova co-ownership, if realised, stems from the fact that with the arrival of Jellinek as a potential operational partner of Fortenova in the joint acquisition of international brands and opening new markets in the future, the French retail giant Auchan is mentioned, with which Indotek is negotiating strategic cooperation and ownership alliances.

For more, make sure to check out our business section.

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