23 October 2018
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Article of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov «Russia–EU: Prospects for Partnership in the Changing World», published in «Journal of Common Market Studies Annual Review»

It gives me great pleasure to address the readers of such an influential publication as the JCMS Annual Review and share my views regarding relations between the two biggest players in Europe – the Russian Federation and the European Union. The importance of this subject should not be underestimated because the future of our common continent in the 21st century will primarily depend on the EU and Russia – and their interaction.

European history cannot be imagined without Russia, just as the history of Russia cannot be imagined apart from Europe. For centuries, Russia has been involved in shaping European reality in its political, economic and cultural dimensions. Yet the debate of how close Russia and its west European partners can be and to what degree Russia is a European country has also been going on for centuries. This debate was somewhat put aside during the cold war, when the European continent was essentially divided into spheres of influence by the two superpowers. But in recent years, when Europeans have agreed to leave behind the era of the bloodiest and most devastating wars in the history of mankind and when the walls of irreconcilable ideological confrontation have been torn down, we have an unprecedented opportunity to fulfil the dream of a united Europe.

There is definitely a huge potential for partnership between Russia and the EU. After all, our countries have about 650 million people living on the territory of more than 21 million square kilometres. There are many things that bring us together: the complementarity and interdependence of our economies, the objective indivisibility of European security, extensive human contacts and common cultural roots. The fact that European culture in the broad sense spans the area to the Pacific coast is definitely Russia's historic achievement.

We have accomplished a lot in the past two decades. Russia and the EU have agreed to establish four ‘common spaces’ and prepared road maps to implement them. Trade between Russia and the EU exceeds US$400 billion, which is commensurate with the EU's trade with the United States or China. Total EU investment in the Russian economy exceeds US$260 billion, and Russian investment into the EU countries amounts to US$75 billion. Last August, Russia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), and now that we have the same trading rules our interaction should intensify and expand.

In 2010, we launched the Partnership for Modernization initiative, where we jointly implement innovative, research and technological projects. In the future, we may see production and technology alliances in areas like the energy industry, aircraft manufacturing, shipbuilding, the automotive industry, medicine and the pharmaceutical industry. This will certainly make these industries and our economies in general more competitive and help them adapt to new challenges in the globalizing world.

We have a number of sectorial dialogues where we work to harmonize our technical regulations and remove barriers for trade. We focus on creating better conditions for mutual investment and interaction between small and medium-sized businesses. We are pleased that most of the EU countries have shown interest in this concrete synergetic work and signed bilateral agreements with Russia on partnership for modernization.

Energy resources are Russia's top exports. We top the list of the EU's major energy suppliers. Russia provides the EU with a third of its oil and natural gas and almost a quarter of its coal and petrochemicals. The EU simply does not have another partner that can guarantee secure deliveries in such amounts. Even at the time of the cold war, our country strictly fulfilled all its obligations. Today, we are much better positioned to guarantee a reliable gas supply to European consumers in the decades to come. Last year, the Nord Stream pipeline that connects the gas grids of Germany and other EU countries with Russia's integrated gas transport network became fully operational. Construction of the South Stream is under way as well.

There are numerous indications that we need each other – and not just on earth, but in space as well. On 14 March 2013, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a co-operation agreement in Paris to work in partnership on the ExoMars programme for the robotic exploration of Mars, Jupiter and the Moon in 2016–18.

However, the fundamental questions regarding the extent and the prospects of the Russia–EU relationship remain. The new version of Russia's Foreign Policy Concept, approved by President Vladimir Putin on 12 February, sets the strategic goal of creating a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In this context, I would like to quote something European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said at the conference on Russia–EU partnership that took place in Moscow in March:

I think it is important, even when we take concrete decisions be it in daily life, in politics or business, to have a long-term vision. The long term vision is a common economic and human space from Lisbon to Vladivostok with free travel of people, free exchange of goods and services, very close overall cooperation. (Barroso, 2013)

So, can we say that in developing their bilateral partnership Russia and the EU share the same, clearly visualized goal? Obviously, it would be premature to say that today. The strategic goals of Russia–EU relations have not yet become reality affecting daily affairs. To borrow an expression used by José Manuel Barroso, the situation will only change if Russia–EU interaction goes from a ‘partnership of necessity’ to a ‘partnership of choice’. And this means that our relationship needs strategic trust as a strong foundation.

We can only achieve a fundamentally new, higher level of partnership if we regard each other as equal partners, respect each other and take into account each other's interests. I have to say that we see some inertia in the way the EU treats its relations with Russia. This is due to the Union's general tradition of developing ties with neighbouring countries only if they approach EU standards and follow EU policies. In fact, it seems that recently our European partners have even somewhat abandoned our common understanding regarding the consistent development of Russia–EU co-operation. For instance, Russia is seriously concerned about the EU's steps to implement the Third Energy Package, which it portrays as a measure to improve antitrust regulations. Of course, we do not question the EU's right to regulate its markets, but we expect it to abide by its international legal obligations. In the situation with the Third Energy Package, which is retroactive and affects the investments that Russian companies had made in EU countries before this document was adopted, our partners violated Article 34 of the current Russia–EU partnership and co-operation agreement as well as bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements between Russia and EU Member States.

The Third Energy Package has already created problems for practical co-operation. Certain EU countries are now less appealing to Russian businesses, and systemic risks are higher. In some cases, we see de facto expropriation of Russian companies' assets. We never expected to face this kind of situation in the EU. Such preposterous decisions may erode trust and damage the foundations of our partnership. Therefore, we hope the EU responds positively to Russia's proposals for amending the situation, which we presented to the European Commission at the Russia–EU summit in Brussels on 20–21 December 2012. We suggest signing a special agreement that would minimize the negative effect the Third Energy Package will have on our energy co-operation. Also, we hope that the joint road map for Russia–EU energy co-operation until 2050 signed on 22 March 2013 in Moscow will further stimulate energy co-operation.

We are also concerned because of the antitrust investigation the European Commission launched last year against Gazprom – a company that makes a significant contribution to energy security on the European continent. One of the accusations is that Gazprom allegedly ‘imposed unfair prices on its customers by linking the price of gas to oil prices’. But this formula (which, incidentally, was first introduced by the Dutch) has never been questioned before and is used by other companies supplying natural gas to Europe as well. If sanctions are introduced against Gazprom, it will be difficult for the company to work on the markets where it faces open discrimination.

In this situation, we observe with interest current discussions in the EU about the distribution of powers between Brussels and Member States. As far as we understand, the Lisbon Treaty has catalogued different categories of powers within the EU, but has not provided explicit answers for all the questions. Some in the EU think that it should never get involved in matters which can be better taken care of at a local or national level, and the EU will obviously have to clarify these matters in the medium term.

In addition to the negative effect this problem has on energy co-operation where Brussels seeks to impose the principles of the Third Energy Package on all Member States, it also affects the issue of visa facilitation between Russia and EU Member States.

EU rules in no way negate the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality in relation to other countries. In fact, the Treaty on European Union says that in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence the EU shall act only if Member States cannot achieve their objectives at a national level. Perhaps our partners should follow this wise principle more often? Most of the areas where we co-operate, including transport, energy, trans-European networks and issues of freedom, security and justice, are not within the EU's exclusive competence. We know from experience that attempts to restrain EU Member States in their relations with Russia often only hamper our strategic partnership, whereas agreements that we initially make with individual countries may then be successfully implemented at the EU level.

Our co-operation has long outgrown the limits of the 1994 partnership and co-operation agreement. Yet, while working on a new framework agreement, we face attempts by Brussels to take advantage of the talks in order to get further economic benefits in addition to the terms on which Russia joined the WTO. There should be no illusions: Russia will never accept a lopsided agreement. In general, we regard it as a framework, strategic agreement that would outline key areas for developing our co-operation, set goals for the future and define ways to achieve them.

We are disappointed with insufficient progress towards visa-free travel for short-term visits between Russia and the EU. The visa regime has long been an anachronism in our relations. From the technical point of view, Russia and EU Member States have been ready to waive visas for each other. This issue is symbolic; it exemplifies all the differences between Russia and the EU. It is ironic that our western partners, who were so adamant about freedom of movement when negotiating the Helsinki Final Act, are now reluctant to create conditions for free human communication on the European continent.

Of course, when considering future relations between Russia and the EU, we should consider the rapidly changing global context. It often seems that these considerations are not always taken into account sufficiently – and this while the world is undergoing transformation. The global balance of power is shifting, and a new, polycentric system of international relations is emerging, where Europe will no longer play a central role. International affairs are becoming more complex and less predictable as destabilizing tendencies aggravate. Concepts and views that used to seem unquestionable are undergoing radical change. Developed nations no longer drive global growth; the factor of civilizational identity is becoming more prominent; the plurality of development models is becoming evident. Changes are taking place at all levels and in all areas. As many experts observe, for example, the crisis made the dichotomy between Europe's north and south more evident, whereas the traditional division into west and east is less prominent now. Under these circumstances, clinging to obsolete concepts from the past era would inevitably result in big mistakes. With the current fluid situation, one should not take the traditional system of international alliances for granted. It is obvious that history will make us reconsider our views on a lot of things.

The global economic situation, affected by financial difficulties in some leading economies, requires responsible and consolidated action. Nobody can avoid the effect of global economic processes, and no country or a group of countries – no matter how big or powerful they are – can handle today's challenges on their own. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts global gross domestic product (GDP) growth at 3.3 per cent in 2013 and 4.0 per cent in 2014. At the same time, the eurozone is expected to shrink by 0.3 per cent this year and grow by 1.1 per cent in 2014. Russia's growth last year of 3.4 per cent was above all of the other G8 countries. I only mention these figures to encourage our European colleagues to take into account the situation on the ground.

We genuinely hope our European partners emerge from the period of stagnation as soon as possible. We believe they will find appropriate solutions. This is why we still keep about 40 per cent of our foreign exchange reserves in euros. And this is not just well-wishing – Russia regularly participates in working out collective decisions in the IMF in order to support distressed European economies. We take part in multilateral efforts to overcome the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis. As the current chair in the G20, Russia has proposed an agenda that seeks to achieve sustainable, well-balanced growth in the global economy and create new jobs. We put emphasis on stimulating investment and making regulation more transparent and efficient. We think the primary objective for the G20 is to strengthen global governance institutions, create new effective instruments for removing existing disparities and for stimulating growth in all the parts of the world, and to ensure close co-ordination of economic policies.

At the same time, it is clear that there is no magic solution for Europe or for any other part of the world. The situation requires serious and long-term effort which may employ unconventional approaches, such as adjusting one's model of economic development and generally rebuilding trust in the economic regulation system.

Also, Russia–EU relations should certainly take into account the new reality that emerges as Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) nations progress towards closer Eurasian integration. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus have established the Customs Union (CU) and the Common Economic Space (CES) with a market of 165 million consumers. It is based on universal integration principles consistent with the WTO standards and is harmonized in terms of macroeconomic policies, competition rules, technical regulations, transport, natural monopolies' tariffs, and agricultural and industrial subsidies. Last year, the Eurasian Economic Commission – a permanent organ for these two formats – was established. It oversees matters of customs tariffs and technical regulations, trade regimes with third countries, competition, macroeconomic and energy policies, and some other issues. Gradually, it will assume responsibility for other matters as well.

It took 40 years for the European Coal and Steel Community to evolve into the full-fledged European Union. The CU and the CES are developing much faster, in part because we take into account the EU's experience as the most successful integration project so far. We will do our best to further develop and improve Eurasian integration mechanisms and produce the regulatory framework for the CU and the CES. Our integration is already yielding specific, practical results, as illustrated by GDP growth and trade statistics. In 2012, trade between the CU member states grew by 8.7 per cent; in 2011, it grew by 33.9 per cent. The establishment of the CU and the CES helped improve the investment climate in the three countries, created more favourable conditions for doing business including small and medium-sized businesses, and created new jobs. The number of people in the CU and CES countries registered as unemployed by the end of 2012 was 16.8 per cent lower than in 2011, with the unemployment rate at 5.2 per cent. I think many of our European partners can only wish they had these kind of figures.

There is no intention on our part, nor could there be, to restore the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union in any shape or form. That would be naïve and impossible. Yet close integration based on different values, with a new political and economic foundation, is certainly what our times call for. It reflects objective trends of this globalization era, including the increasing role of regional alliances. This is not our invention. We just follow current trends based on pragmatism and common sense. It is only natural to take advantage of economic, infrastructural, logistic and transport connections we inherited from the time when our countries were all parts of the same state.

The new union will be open for interested countries to join. We expect it to become a hub effectively connecting Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Of course, the parameters of Eurasian integration are for participating nations to determine, just as it is up to the EU Member States to decide how the EU should develop. But I strongly believe that further Eurasian integration, in formats that are complementary and compatible with the processes under way in the EU, meets our common interests.

With the CU and the CES as the foundation, we expect to establish the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) by 1 January 2015. The purpose of the Union is to make maximum use of mutually beneficial economic ties among the CIS nations. This project is our priority. We expect the EEU to become a unification model that will shape the future not only of our three countries, but also that of other post-Soviet nations.

As far as we can see, the EU understands that Eurasian integration is an objective reality and would like to work out mechanisms for interacting through EU institutions, primarily the European Commission, going from the level of experts, where this interaction actually works, to a higher level. We can only welcome this approach. In this context, it would be appropriate to quote former French minister and MEP Rachida Dati: Don't wave the red rag of a new cold war, a bloc against a bloc. We must work for a union of unions, an alliance of the European Union and the Eurasian Union. Naturally, this cannot happen overnight. But we must have the courage to set such a long-term goal in developing relations with Russia and its Eurasian partners. (Dati, 2013)

Generally speaking, there can be no doubt that defining additional opportunities for economic growth based on a new, high-technology foundation with maximum co-operation between Russia and the EU could become one of the most promising areas where we can work together in the years to come. At the same time, we clearly cannot take Russia–EU ties to a fundamentally new level in one leap. We can only develop our bilateral partnership gradually, step by step. Here are a few areas which we think we could start with. First, we can develop energy co-operation, leading in the future to a single European energy complex. Russia is ready to advance in this direction on the basis of transparency, without politicizing energy co-operation. We hope that common sense and wisdom, which have always been typical of the statesmen who initiated European integration, will eventually prevail. Second, a new Russia–EU framework agreement, which would outline key areas of our future interaction and ways of achieving common objectives, should be signed at an early date. Third, the signing of an agreement to waive visas for short-term trips would be a serious confirmation of the strategic nature of the Russia–EU partnership and make a real contribution to removing the dividing lines that still remain on the European continent. Fourth, we should develop co-operation in foreign policy and security. To ensure common and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region, all the parties that play a major role in these matters in Europe and neighbouring regions should actively participate in this work. If there is political will, we may find a formula that would allow us to increase our co-operation in foreign policy and security without jeopardizing the EU's autonomy as regards decision-making in the common security and defence policy (CSDP) or Russia's sovereignty as a country that is not seeking membership of the EU. The need for this is obvious. One may simply take a look at what is happening south of Europe, in the Middle East and North Africa. We think that differences in our approaches to settling this region's problems, including the crisis in Syria, are exaggerated, while opportunities for joint action for the purpose of improving stability and finding political solutions to conflicts remain underestimated.

We stand for co-operation as equal partners in crisis management. We are convinced that the Seville modalities for Russia's participation in EU crisis management operations/missions as the only possible form of our interaction should be replaced with co-operation based on equality, which befits strategic partnership between Russia and the EU. If the EU signs an agreement based on equality, that would be a sign of mutual respect, as is appropriate for strategic partners. At the same time, the EU would have no obligation to participate in crisis management operations conducted by Russia, and Russia, similarly, would have no obligation to participate in operations conducted by the EU. The parties will decide whether they want to co-operate under the agreement on a case-by-case basis, considering the circumstances in each particular case.

As a confidence-building measure, we think it would be important for Russia and the EU to boost their military co-operation. The military-to-military working group established on the EU's initiative in 2010 became an organic part of the Russia–EU dialogue, assuming responsibility for a number of matters: exchanging assessments on the current situation and possible developments in crisis-hit regions, using Russia and EU's peacekeeping potentials, fighting piracy.

Russia will continue pursuing a dual-track approach, simultaneously developing partnership with the EU and its Member States. However, to make this progress stable and uninterrupted, we need common understanding of our joint mission, which is to secure an appropriate role for Europe in the world and to increase its contribution to international stability and global development.

I believe that today we need to be creative rather than cling to predetermined views. The idea of synergy and combining our potentials rather than trying to distance ourselves from each other on the common European continent is what we need in this era of globalization, as the world becomes increasingly interdependent. Incidentally, such an approach would deliver the countries which the EU describes as ‘common neighbourhood’ from having to choose between the eastern and western directions of developing co-operation.

I think that a careful study of the prospects and outlooks for establishing a common Russia–EU space is a subject that deserves close attention from Russian and EU experts. Analysis that would substantiate the viability of Russia's and the EU's joint efforts in economic and other fields could make an important contribution to the process of forming a strategic bilateral alliance.

Together, we can achieve a lot – politically, economically and in addressing key international problems. There are many things on the Russia–EU agenda. What results and how soon we will be able to achieve them will depend on the degree of our openness for interaction, for working together in order to produce compromise solutions that take into account both parties' interests.


27.09.2018 - Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council meeting, September 26, 2018

Mr President, Colleagues, In the modern world, an efficient fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming increasingly important for global and regional stability and the reliable security of all states without exception. Constructive cooperation in this area is an important component of the efforts to shape a positive international agenda. I think everybody agrees that the UN Security Council resolutions that outline specific measures against violations of non-proliferation must be strictly observed. Resolution 1540 remains the basis for this and contains obligations for the member states to take specific measures to prevent non-government agents from accessing weapons of mass destruction and their components. The UNSC decisions taken in pursuance of this resolution are particularly important as they include sanctions for handing over any types of weapons to terrorists. There have been incidents of such handovers and they must be thoroughly investigated.

07.09.2018 - Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the UNSC meeting on the incident in Salisbury

Q: Do you expect British sanctions on Russia soon? A: We are not expecting or afraid of anything. Taking to the account how things have been developing during the recent years we do not exclude anything. This discussion and yesterday’s speech by the British Prime-Minister in the British Parliament are not coincidental. I think that’s looks like a prelude to a new political season. Q: So, Ambassador it’s really coming from the highest level in the UK. A: It always comes from the highest level. Last time when the incident took place it also came from the highest level. Q: But it seems that you are not taking it seriously. A: We are taking it very seriously. We were saying it all the time. Why we’ve been asking for cooperation with the UK from day one. Only few minutes ago Ambassador Pierce was referring to an ultimatum that Boris Johnson made in his letter to the Russian Ambassador in London when the incident took place presented as a request by the British site to cooperate while in fact it was a demand to to accept the gilt. At the same time our requests which we sent to British authorities constantly through OPCW and bilaterally were ignored.

06.09.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, September 4, 2018

Question: Today we have a special guest in our studio, one of the main participants in the “great game”, someone the future of the world really depends on in many ways: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We are happy to welcome you in the Great Game studio. Sergey Lavrov: Thanks for inviting me.

22.08.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comment on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's anti-Russian claims

At a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's urges to European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident.

16.08.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"

The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country. Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”

24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.

20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.

21.04.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place: - Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law - Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma - Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria - Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018) - New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family - No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case - and Cyber security threats I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any.

17.03.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government? A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.

26.01.2018 - Main foreign policy outcomes of 2017

In 2017, Russian diplomacy addressed multidimensional tasks to ensure national security and create a favourable external environment for our country's progressive development. Russia maintained an independent foreign policy, promoted a unifying agenda, and proposed constructive solutions to international problems and conflicts. It developed mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and played an active role in the work of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the OSCE, and the CSTO. Among other things, Russian policy has sought to prevent the destabilisation of international relations, and this responsible policy has met with broad understanding in the international community.

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