By Tatiana Darie
Tatiana Darie, a recent intern with GPS, speaks with Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov, special correspondent for Kommersant and winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous & Ethical Journalism. The views expressed are his own.
You’ve been reporting from eastern Ukraine and along the Ukraine-Russia border. What do Russians think is going on there?
Actually, there’s a civil war going on at the moment, I think that would be an appropriate description of what is happening there right now. At the moment, the Ukrainian army is continuing its anti-terrorist operation, which was launched in April. These past days they have been getting closer to Luhansk and Donetsk.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and many in the West are convinced, that this is actually a conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
You know, we can have a long discussion about what kind of support Russia is providing to the armies of these self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, but there’s a clear terminology for this. And while the Russian army isn’t officially taking part in this conflict, I think it’s not worth talking about a Russia-Ukraine conflict. I’ve read some articles published by some international human rights and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, and to my understanding, they have the same assessment of the situation. Obviously, Russia is offering political support to these militias in Luhansk and Donetsk, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground. We're talking about an armed conflict on Ukrainian territory in which Russia is not, at least officially, participating.
You’ve talked toboth locals and rebels in the region. What have you found? What are they fighting for?
I think this story had several phases. The first phase began last spring, right after the events in Kiev, around April, when they took over public buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk. Back then, this looked like a political strategy that the family and supporters of the fugitive former President Viktor Yanukovych used, to take control of the situation in the country.
The second phase occurred in early May after the events in Odessa, just ahead of the so-called referendum in Donbass and right after the launch of the Ukrainian army’s anti-terrorist operation. Then it appeared that these republics were receiving some kind of support – some people voted in the referendum and a good amount of the people, though we cannot know for sure how many, joined the separatist forces.
Apparently, people thought events were going to follow the Crimea scenario, they would vote in the referendum and then continue to live quietly and peacefully in the region. But that didn’t happen, and then phase three started, which brought a lot of disappointment because people had thought peace was just around the corner and they realized they were wrong. They also realized that the militias are building checkpoints close to civilian homes on purpose, using them as human shields. Therefore, the Ukrainian army's shelling, just like the Russian army’s one in Chechnya, is more likely to destroy a number of civilian homes given their proximity to the checkpoints, which are the targets of the attacks of course.
Some Western leaders and experts are convinced the latest round of sanctions, targeting Russia’s energy, arms and finance sectors, are going to hit Russia hard. How do ordinary Russians feel about these sanctions?
To my understanding, while the previous sanctions were targeted at specific individuals, they were not able to affect ordinary Russians in any way. These new sanctions are targeting some economic sectors. For example, Russian state-owned banks will no longer have access to Western capital markets. I don’t know to what extent this will affect them, but I can tell you for sure that people don’t feel it on a daily basis yet. I’ve read what economists wrote about this topic and I understand that the sanctions are going to hit the country’s budget really hard. But as far as I’m aware, this is long-term project and people aren’t going to feel its effects today or tomorrow.
Some analysts in Washington and Brussels insist that this is the start of a new Cold War. Do Russians agree?
At the level of state propaganda, there’s been a cold conflict going on for a while now, since Russian TV has always been used to blame Washington for all its sins and troubles. It’s hard to assess if this is a new Cold War because the situation is different now. Back then, there were two big powers in a bipolar world that had control over a large number of countries. At the moment, Russia is nowhere near as powerful as the Soviet Union, so I don’t know if this comparison is fair.
It’s clear that Russia’s relations with Europe and the U.S. are cooling down at the moment, but at the moment we can’t really assess what consequences that will ultimately have.
According to the latest polls, Russia’s image in the eyes of the rest of the world has been severely damaged amid the crisis in Ukraine. Are Russians concerned about that?
We need to understand that, unfortunately, the vast majority of Russians make their decisions based on the information they get on TV. We know that the Russian president’s approval rating has reached a historical high – around 80 percent of Russians support his policies andare happy about Crimea’s accession to Russia, and so on.
But there’ s maybe another 10 to 15 percent of people who are able to critically analyze the consequences of these latest events. So it depends. Are we talking about the reasonable people who are certainly alarmed by the happenings, or are we looking at the 80 percent who are not really interested as sanctions are unlikely to affect them much? One has to understand that the Russian population is strongly divided on this matter, and this ongoing crisis is only making it worse.
You’ve followed events both in the Russianand foreign media. What do you think has been lost in translation?
You know, I just got back from Berlin, from a big media conference attended by Russian, Ukrainian and journalists from various EU countries. There’s been a long discussion and debate on this issue that concluded that these new conditions of war have blunted our ability to listen to each other effectively.
But there’s logical explanation for that. Aside from the propaganda, which is very effective both on the Ukrainian and Russian sides, there’s a lot of misrepresentation of the actions and intentions of the opposite side. Russian journalists working in Luhansk and Donbass can feel uncomfortable around the Ukrainian army or the Kiev government, and that makes it harder for them to clearly understand what the government in Kiev is really up to.
At the same time it’s easier for Ukrainian journalists to support theUkrainian army and it’s obvious that it’s not very safe for them to work in the cities controlled by these militia groups – that’s why there’s some strange information about what is really happening in Donetsk and Luhansk being spread in the Ukrainian media. So getting an objective picture of facts during war time is quite challenging.
This Ilya Barabanov person sounds like he needs to run for a government position. He's got that politician double speak down to an art form. He answered all the questions without really saying anything at all.
I honestly disagree. His answers were very precise and quite informative for those who follow the situation.
Good assessment. I agree with you
Second that, Dima.
Kommersant is not a state-controlled newspaper in Russia. Ilya Barabanov's observation are reliable.
Now Putin is seeking a face-saving strategy in Eastern Ukraine, because the tactics he used in Crimea haven't been effective in the eastern region. Therefore we see the resignations of rebel leaders in the self-proclaimed "People's Republic of Donetsk".
How can you say there is not double speak? Last I remember, Crimea was not Russian Territory unless you now agree it is Russia. Seems to me there is very much armed occupation of Ukrainian Territory directly by Russia.
How soon we forget!
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Last I heard Afghanistan and Iraq (Iran, Venezuela) are not American territories either, Phil.
What the heck is an "interracial single" , rampiondra? You mean like white dudes that have skin color fetishes?
If you want to focus on the root cause of ALL these conflicts, follow the energy trail. Ukraine, with an estimated 25% of Europe's energy reserves, is no exception.
Ukraine has already entered into a 10 billion dollar production sharing agreement with Chevron to explore for and produce shale gas in the 6,300 square kilometre Oleska field in western Ukraine, and a similar deal with Royal Dutch Shell for 8,000 square kilometres in the Yuzivska field in the east of the country, and a deal with the ExxonMobil-led consortium to exploit a field off the western coast of the Black Sea (not sure how the latter is going to work out for them now).
Hands up who still thinks what's happening in Iraq at the moment has something to do with protecting 40,000 civilians stuck on a mountain and has nothing at all to do with oil...
What Ukraine has is a vast pipeline infrastructure just as Afghanistan's TAPI. It is control of these pipelines that the fighting is all about. Western interests vs. the interests of those with a Quran not allowing them to side with invading infidels, and citizens going without as major foreign corporations profit greatly. Namely, The Carlyle Group currently controlling said pipelines. A group founded by the Bush and Bin Laden family dynasties over 20 years ago. War profiteers posing as "investors".
To anyone seeking United States interests they should realize that Assad is the closest thing to a moderate in the region. For years Christians were protected under his reign and people went about their normal business. children went to school and their parents went to work. No one was blowing up marketplaces and there were no one seeking refuge in other countries. Then the peaceful demonstrations were taking over by extremists(see Ferguson MO>) and now half a million people have fled the carnage brought on by the reformers and a good spot was formed for ISIS to take over and kill Christians! For the interests of UNITED STATES and the people of Syria Assad was and is the best choice!!
All hail al AsSarin, the Chlorine King.
Not to mention over 3 million Syrians displaced from their homes as Syria experiences their worst drought on record.
True, though. Muslim Brotherhood did go into Syria after having been beaten in takeover attempt of Egypt, and with arms supplied by US leaders opposed to Assad. And now call themselves "ISIL".
Have you noticed that US news anchors stopped reporting Muslim Brotherhood a few weeks ago? And never mention The Barack H. Obama foundation busted by Egypt's High Court for financing Muslim Brotherhood acts of state terrorism? That the ICC is currently looking for the director of president Obama's foundation and is never mentioned in US news broadcasts?
Had you ever even heard of president Obama's foundation before just now? If so, what did you find out?
This attempt at evenhandedness is a failure. Ukrainian journos operating in separatist areas get captured and held hostage. The desires of the actual residents of Donetsk and Lugansk are being utterly ignored by Russia. Their concern about fellow Russian speakers is fake: they are being used to advance a 19th Century-style imperialist agenda against a former colony. Knowing no other way to retain their authoritarian grip on power as the Russian economy grinds to a structural halt, the Kremlin is resorting to nationalism as a legitimation strategy. Its a loser.
Three prison inmates were locked in the same cell; they soon began talking. "What are you here for?" asked one inmate of another. "They put me in for beating up some old Jew named Khaimovich," snarled one man. "And why are you here?" asked the second of the first. "For having defended some old Jew named Khaimovich in a fight," he replied. "And what were you arrested for?" the third inmate was asked. "For being Khaimovich," he sighed.
One sunny day on the North Sea a creative little boy was playing in the sand trying to decide what to make. He discovered some Scheiss (you can guess what that is) on the beach so he decided to make a VoPo (People's Policeman). Just as he was finishing, along comes a VoPo, trying to make sure no one swims to Denmark. He decides to ask the little boy what that ugly thing made of Scheiss is. The little boy responds: "It's a VoPo!" So the officer beats him.
The next day, the boy is on the beach making the same creation when that same officer comes along and sees the boy is playing with the Scheiss again, and asks what he is doing. The boy responds "I'm making another VoPo!" So the officer beats him.
The day after that, the officer is strolling the beach, sees the boy playing just with sand, and is glad to see he has switched his medium. So he asks boldly "what are you making today?" The boy responds: "A G.I.!" The officer asks: "And why not a VoPo?" The boy responds: "Couldn't find any Scheiss."
A Briton, a Frenchman and a Russian are viewing a painting of Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden. "Look at their reserve, their calm," muses the Brit. "They must be British."
"Nonsense," the Frenchman disagrees. "They're naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French."
"No way! They have no clothes and no shelter," the Russian points out, "They have only an apple to eat, and they are being told they live in a paradise. Obviously, they are Russian."
Nowhere does the bible account of Adam and Eve mention them eating an apple, Bobcat. Your ignorance is showing.
Thank you @ bobcat! Your ears mustve been ringing huh lol? Javier and kenney both say hey to you!
Culturally, there's no any differences between them.
They are fighting, without their will.
Soon or later, they will both will hate US.
That is true. I already do.
I tend to agree with the Russians on this one. The people in eastern Ukraine want to break away and the Russians are definitely not wrong in wanting to help them. The Neo-Nazis in Kiev need to be stopped!!!
neo nazi jews must be stoped. this disease of zionist is cause of hate and killings around world ukrain,syria,iraq,egypt,libya
We see more evidence of the Islamic jihad going on, like the Ukrainian jets shooting down the Malaysian plane. Odessa looks like an Islamic jihad, and using people as human shields, very Islamic. And muslims are the new Nazis.
if it was like "the american way", ukraine would have being bombed and taken over long time ago. I still do not understand why Russia is afraid of Ukraine and are letting their russian-ukrainians being bombed and killed by Kiev forces. I think Russia do not have the balls like americans do. Maybe Russia is afraid of the west and USA, because they mean business if you mess with them they will erase you like you never existed. So, Russia, I am sorry for you, be careful and nice with the west if you want to survive.
This should net be, thor. The Russians have every right to stand up for the people in eastern Ukraine. After all, they, for the most part are ethnically Russian. The West has absolutely no right to interfere. No wonder the world knows no peace!
My Troll knows that I would not write what he forged.
Your screen name is terrific.
Then they should move BACK to russia @ George patton.
That is what they are trying to do and take their land with them but Joe Biden's son would loose all the potential profits and that is why the war is on.
Well stated, Ben.
Today pro Russian rebels hit a civilian convoy trying to escape the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Many women and children were killed and the pro Russian rebels blamed the Ukrainian military. Sounds familiar? When they downed a civilian plane, they also blamed the Ukrainian military. Russian rebel's argument was that they simply didn't have the "capability" of doing such a strike. Who are they kidding? If they can down a civilian plane at over 30,000 feet, they can certainly destroy a convoy. Once again, Russians are lying as usual. They've been lying since they illegally annexed Crimea.
`When they downed a civilian plane` – proof into the studio please! Where are the satellite images of USA, the black boxes decoding published? Look at this for a change http://21stcenturywire.com/2014/07/25/mh17-verdict-real-evidence-points-to-us-kiev-cover-up-of-failed-false-flag-attack/
The same with your other claims: where are the facts, pictures, videos of `pro Russian rebels hit a civilian convoy trying to escape the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Many women and children were killed and the pro Russian rebels blamed the Ukrainian military`...People, THINK, LOOK for the facts and then DOUBLECHECK them...There are so much
lie in the media on the both sides... but Ukrainian media is particulary bad. The opposition simply got squeezed out of there.
It is highly likely that there are Islamic jihad agents at work on both sides of the equation here, trying hard to spark off Armegeddon. What they would really like to see is the superpowers destroying each other, so that they can enforce their sharia islam on civilians in the fog of war.
No evidence on that, and why would rebels hit their own people? (About 75% of rebels are locals, not volunteers from other places.) So you have more Banderite "government" propaganda and that is it.
Folks who will chop off their compatriots' fingers and hands as punishment will find it rational for many citizens to die so that a few can thrive and further their religion, as God is greater than they.
"Today pro Russian rebels hit a civilian convoy trying to escape the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Many women and children were killed and the pro Russian rebels blamed the Ukrainian military."
"the Ukrainian military hit a civilian convoy trying to escape the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Many women and children were killed and the Ukrainian military blamed the Ukrainian military the pro Russian rebels."
How do you know what is true?
How do I know what is true?
I know that reports of events are often or usually not true.
What is always true is this: a nation that wins a war has won that war.
How russians see ukrnaian conflict – 50% of russians does not support military intervention in ukraine. Other 50% are sick and see it like this: all ukrnaians shoul dbe killed because they do not want to be our slaves. All ukrnaians are fascists because they see a diffirent vision for their own country and their own future, and they do not want to submit to russian criminal vision of the world's future”. Thats pretty much how rusisans see ukrnaian conflict.
half of russins want all ukranians killed same like izrael says all gazans need be killed. there is no tolerance in the world. this trend is very dangerous. it is all medias fault. it started by zion media
It is the "Ukrainians" who are killing the Russians here. And it is great to see you make this correlation, surely there are many muslims at work in this situation.
Lol @ Ferhat...reminds me of Israel.
yes israel is root cause . and promoter of hate.
Islam's psychopathic muslims from which ISIS in Babylon has arisen, is the root cause of hatred, death, destruction and oppression, in this world. Israel fights the good fight, the one against this evil, which is definitely present, since muslims are present, in the Ukrainian chaos.
As soon as I read someone refer to the Russian inspired AND Russian supported war in eastern Ukraine as a " civil war " , I am immediately aware who I am dealing with ! It is simply a lying Russian troll ! So , I am not upset , I don't
lose sleep over it , because I realize that lying comes as natural to Russians as breathing ! They simply ALL LIE !
Putin ; lies ! Lavrov ; lies ! Churkin ; lies ! Archbishop Kiril ; lies ! The grocery store clerk ; lies ! They ALL LIE ! They are simply a nation of liars !
same like israel
Same like the arab muslims in GAza.
You are so sophisticated HAHA ))) There are no sane people in neither Russia nor Ukraine who want to see each other being killed.On the both sides is about the same amount of `fascists`. The difference is in Ukraine they are unleashed and not restricted with any boundaries after the coup. The `world`s future` is considered by US to be US`s zone of responsibility)) Russia has only vision of their own future. Destabilised Ukraine was not a part of it. Putin always dealt as a businessman trying to offer better conditions. Unlike US who just secretely prepared the grounds for the tearing apart long strong relationships between 2 very close countries. There is nothing criminal in not letting the West to push through thier interests over national interests of Russia as it was in 90s. If that`s the way you choose – to sell your resources, to destroy the remains of your industry and agryculture in order to become one more rightness puppet in EU ( with the only right of visa free travel) – it is not the choice of a big part of the Ukraine.And it is not only Eastern part. Just most of them are too scared to rise against because modern `democratic` Ukraine uses not very democratic and physical means to deal with disagreed. United Ukraine is a myth as well as a statement ` Russia is a bully of small countries`. The only bully on the world stage at the moment is USA
I agree with you, the US and EU started this conflict in Ukraine, along with the Islamic jihad whose only aim is to create chaos and destabilise nations, so that they can weaken countries, and take them over. Russia is not the problem here. The very fact that Ukrainian jets shot down the Malaysian plane points to terrorist agenda in Kiev. I wonder how many muslims are in that so called illegitimate government.
Ukraine army need to fight the rebels in southern luhansk so as to close rusian terror way of entry
This time russia will lose as the days goes by the map of donbass insurgency is receding really want the ukraine army to crush down the rebels stronghold so that Russia will not have the reaason to invase
This article is part of subtle Russian manipulation through media. There is no civil war in Ukraine. All those who fight for Russia do it as long as they get paid for this. More over not many Ukrainians from East even want to fight for money, that is why there many from Russia and Chechnya there.
Perhaps they are Islamic jihad agents from Russia and Chechnya..
Absolutely right. The piece is trying to be even-handed, as if there were not Russian mercenaries, Chechen boitsy and FSB/SVR dudes running all over Donetsk and Lugansk. This is no civil war. Its a war of independence.
Ilya must have gotten some awards from Putin, as well. Without the slow trickling Russia military convoys into Ukraine in the past months, the Ukraine anti-terrorism units would have nothing to fight. Russia is definitely, without a doubt, behind the terrorism and destruction in eastern Ukraine, causing the Ukraine government to drown their attempts to corrupt and manipulate the citizens of Ukraine.
Ilya Barabanov is one more mouthpiece for Putin's propaganda. He is from the "reasonable" arm of Putin's machine.. This arm is meant to plant false stories of "balance" , admitting that there is some Russian propaganda, but equating this with "Ukrainian propaganda". This plays very well in the weak-kneed western press. However, there is no balance in this situation. Putin has attacked Ukraine directly with Russian agents, with shelling from the Russian side of the border, and with the broadcast of extreme lies. All of the resulting death has been to protect the interests of his criminal gang in Russia. Until the flight of Yanukovych, a deeply corrupt Ukraine was a convenient conduit for the money Putin is stealing from Russia. Dictators, drug lords and terrorist leaders have always been a source of steady cash for western banks. The West consumes the raw materials stolen from the people, and the west provides arms and a safe place to "invest".
It is irresponsible to present a falsely "balanced" view of the situation in Ukraine without presenting the facts.
1) Ukraine was a peaceful country, but controlled by a corrupt Kremlin-backed regime
2) Economic development in Ukraine has been inhibited in the service of corrupt money flows
3) The "Maidan" movement was fueled by the peoples' inability to endure additional years of this situation (the small ultra-nationalist minority tried to exploit public frustration to gain power, but they failed miserably)
4) More than 90% of Ukrainians happily speak Russian and enjoy Russian culture. there was never any threat that ethnic Russians would be oppressed
5) Workers in the East have lived for years under the threat that their jobs would be lost if Ukraine modernizes. This has been an excuse for the failure to invest in new equipment. The economy of eastern Ukraine is being slowly bled dry. Unfortunately, the only alternative offered by the west has been "austerity" and "privatization", offering to have the victims of corruption shoulder the pain of modernization, while offering future profits to speculators.
6) Ukrainian pensioners were robbed at the time of Ukrainian independence. Putin is playing on the lie that they will recover their money in an expanded Russia.
What complete propaganda that this is the Russian point of view. From the first paragraph, Tatiana shows herself bent towards the Ukraine government. Only the Ukraine government are calling the pro-Russian rebels "terrorists", and certainly nobody from a Russian point of view would call that resistance an "anti-terrorist operation".
Though the biggest proof is when she says the pro-Russian rebels "are building checkpoints close to civilian homes on purpose, using them as human shields". This is NOT the viewpoint of average Russians.
"Russian TV has always been used to blame Washington for all its sins and troubles" ... so basically, the author, supposedly giving the point of view of "average Russians", says that all Russians actively blames things that Russia is at fault for (errantly) on the US. This is NOT the viewpoint of average Russians.
What a BS article full of propaganda. Should rename it to be giving the point of view of the Ukraine government or western-Ukraine citizens, certainly not Russians.
Thank you, Kevin. Your post above is very straightforward. Yes, Tatiana Darie has a very right-wing point of view when it comes to Ukraine.
Actually, I believe she refers to them as terrorists due to their behavior. Right-leaning is probably fairly accurate, as is her unbiased perspective. A lot more could be said about the Russian involvement in Ukraine; she is even-handed, although many Putinites may not agree.
This article is just to make illusion of "okay, we represent the opposite point of view", in fact not representing it at all.
The most ridiculous assumption: "But there’ s maybe another 10 to 15 percent of people who are able to critically analyze". Are you serious? Only the people, who support western agenda are able to think critically?
It's not like that at all! Most of our youth can read English and all of them have internet access – they gather information from anywhere they can, including this article as well, lol. And the fact, that most of us have conclusions different from western policy line doesn't mean, that we are in any way brainwashed or something – it's ours thought-out choice. Amagine what I feel, when having Russian equivalent of PhD, being a teacher in Univercity, and after reading all the articles on CNN concerning Ukraine, as well as few other news resouces, I read the explicit assumption that I can not critically analize? What others in Russia feel? How can you blame Russians for hostility it the article written this way?
Also, I ask everyone to carefully analize the motivations in accidents and deeds (like who gained the most from MH17 accidend and why is western media dead silent about evidence for quite a while already) before jumping onto this very popular Putin demonization hysteria.
Good posting, Alexander. I fully agree.
This is mostly BS.
Stuff mostly is.
You read it, anyway.
a very biast article most of theworld wants RussiA and supports RussiA. what the hell is this guy talking about. ChinA and IndiA North KoreA,IraN south America Paraguay Uruguay,chile,brazil pretty much brics are on the same page.count their population in each of these places and it is more than what the west can handle.even the west itself has division.
Che significa "biast?"
Mi scusi, ma non parlo inglese bene.
I imagine that Aldof Hitler would have had a very high approval rating prior to WWII had they done polls back then.
I think Hitler DID do the Polls.
Yes, Richard. Adolfo Hitler was very popular in Germany. In fact, the German people supported him to the bitter end!
Germany lost that war.
If Germany had won, we would not be able to dismiss Hitler as a madman, and the people of Germany as naive simpletons for following Hitler.
Have you any notion whatsoever of what the German people went through or what Germany was like after WW1 or during the early 1930's, Joey? Evidently not!
@ My Troll,
Of course I know what Germany was like after World War I., and you are very aware that I would know, and that I do know.
I have known many persons, including Germans and Americans, who were in Germany between the two wars.
"Moskalyaku na gylyaku" – "Hang that pro-Russian from a tree"
"Moskliv na nozhi" – "Stick a knife into a pro-Russian"
"Hto ne skache tot moskal" – "If you are not bouncing now you are a pro-Russian"
Those are just some of the popular Ukie chants they have been taught in every school for 20 years. Lose that in translation.
Thanks for the chants. The first one, about hanging from a tree, is tired, but I like the others, especially the third chant.
I am very "Pro" Imperial Russia. There are still genetic heirs who could be the Czar.
Ilya Barabanov sounds like the smartest person on the planet. I can't believe I read this on CNN.
It's about the most accurate assessment around. print this one out. It's gold.
Greedy Jews, Muslims, and Christians fighting over stuff is all this is in the ME.
The Reds are coming! The Reds are coming! Or is that the Browns already here.
It's truly amazing (though not surprising) to see Vladimir Putin deny aiding the Pro Russian rebels once again, yet the whole world can see thousands of Russian troops moving into Ukraine today with heavy weaponry in tow. According to the pro Russian rebels, the Russians are there on "vacation".
Yep @ Ferhat and at least 20,000 troops along the border.
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