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Russia Religion News Current News Items

Scare story about sects in Russia

Interfax, 21 August 2008

The president of the Russian Association of Centers for the Study of Religions and Sects, Professor Alexander Dvorkin, expressed concern over the activity of Mormons on Russian territory.

"There already have been frequent reports that Mormon missionaries—Americans—have often been detained on the territory of secret military facilities. They are accused of ties with the CIA and that not without basis," he stated in an interview which was published Thursday in the "Komsomolskaia pravda" newspaper.

According to the scholar of sects, the Mormons also have a commercial interest:  "in the Far East they actively engage in the fishing industry."

Dvorkin called the Mormon sect "a rich transnational corporation." "They always need people for 'tithing,' a tenth of income, which a person is obliged to donate to the sect. But, according to the calculation of specialists, the Mormon tithe now constitutes a third of income," the expert declared.

As Dvorkin stated earlier, more than 80 large sects are active in the country, whose activity extends to more than half of the Russian regions. In determining the number of small sects, he said, "the count goes into the thousands."

A. Dvorkin also stated that today the sects comprise from 600 to 800 thousand residents of Russia, of which around 300,000 belong to various sects of neo-Pentecostals and approximated 150,000 to the Jehovah's Witnesses sect. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2008)

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Russian and Georgian churches differ over Georgian situation

But they assess the history of the conflict over South Ossetia differently
by Pavel Krug
NG-Religii, 20 August 2008

The war in South Ossetia began unexpectedly for many. For those who consider religious confession as a determining factor in human life, war between Orthodox nations seemed simply improbable. Back on 2 August Alexis II sent greetings to Ilya II on his name day.

When on 8 August Georgian forces opened fire around Tskhinvali, the heads of the Russian and Georgian Orthodox churches called the sides to immediate peace. However in the first days of a conflict such declarations usually have little effect  and they are made largely because there isn't anything else to say. At the same time, many clergy were in the conflict zone. The rector of the Alan annex in Moscow, Hegumen Georgy Bestaev, went to south Ossetia as soon as he learned about what was happening. There is still no word on his subsequent fate. In the course of the whole conflict information appeared from Ossetian sources about Orthodox churches in Tskhinvali and its environs destroyed by Georgian troops. On the other hand, as a result of Russian bombardment the residence of Georgian Metropolitan of Tskhinvali Isaii was destroyed and he himself remained alive only by a miracle. This was reported by Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II in his letter to President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Georgian patriarch's letter was transmitted to the Russian leadership only with the help of Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad Kirill. In the course of several days telephone conversations were held between the two hierarchs. Their result was a visit by Ilya II to the city of Gori controlled by Russian forces on 16 August. The Georgian patriarch, who was accompanied by Metropolitan of Tsukhumi and Abkhazia Daniil and other clergymen, was provided a humanitarian corridor in order to permit the evacuation of wounded and dead persons. Although by no means was everything in Georgia made satisfactory by the contacts of Ilya II with Moscow and his calls for peace. However, the catholicos did not forget to stress that "the Georgian nation will never be reconciled to the violation of its borders. Georgia has never aspired to others' territory, but it has defended its own to the end." Ilya II considers South Ossetia "native Georgian land." "It would be the same thing if for Russia problems suddenly arose, for example, in Novgorod or Smolensk, and it would defend its own territories. Moreover, your country already has had such an experience in Chechnia," he wrote to Dmitry Medvedev on 12 August.

In the Moscow patriarchate they have made somewhat different statements. Since 16 August, by the blessing of Patriarch Alexis II, in all churches of the Russian Orthodox church prayer for peace in the Caucasus has been raised during worship services. "Give peace (. . .) to all those living in the Caucasus land, especially the people of South Ossetia who have suffered much, and confirm for our peoples love for one another, quench all strife, and abolish all discord and offence," its text says. At the same time, different hierarchs of the Moscow patriarchate actually have already raised questions about the jurisdictional adherence of the Georgian Orthodox church of South Ossetia. In particular, Metropolitan of Voronezh and Borisoglebsk Sergii, at a press conference in RIA Novosti on 15 August, called the division of the Ossetian nation into different church jurisdictions "nonsense." "Everything is being determined not by the ecclesiastical but by the political situation and borders which were created and divided a nation and a church. As soon as the politicians reach agreement on the future of South Ossetia the church questions will be normalized," Metropolitan Sergii thinks.

In his turn, Archbishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz Feofan called the activity of the Moscow patriarchate in South Ossetia "a delicate question" and pointed out that "an abnormal canonical situation" is being used by representatives of alternative Orthodoxy, "schismatic Old -Stylists" (In Tskhinvali the Alan diocese of the True Orthodox Church of Greece, which before 2001 was under the Russian Church Outside Russia, is active—NGR). Archbishop Feofan told about his trip to the refugee camp near Alagir in North Ossetia. The hierarch said that he managed to persuade the head of the French foreign ministry Bernar Kushner that what is happening is nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe. (tr. by PDS, posted 22 August 2008)

Russian original posted on site, 20 August 2008

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Antisemitic manifestations in Russia, Lithuania


On 11 August a group of unidentified persons smashed two Jewish cemeteries in Makhachkala [Dagestan province]. At the time only 12 graves were damaged, but when members of the commuity returned the next day they discovered that now more than 80 headstones had been smashed, AEN [Agenstvo evreiskikh novostei] reports.

"We counted the destroyed monuments only in the new cemetery and we still do not know how many graves were desecrated in the other," the leader of the Jewish community, Sh. Dibiyaev reported.

Each broken monument was valued at over 30,000 rubles, since they were executed in the old style.

In the opinion of Shimi Dibiyaev, the vandals got into the territory of the cemetery by scaling the fence.

"Over a long period of time we have tried to find money in order to raise the height of the fence a meter and a half, but so far without results. We appealed to many people for help but have received no answer from anybody," the leader said.

Shimi Dibiyaev is firmly committed to fighting with manifestations of antisemitism in multinational Dagestan.  "I will do everything possible so that these vandals are not only caught but also punished," he repeats. "Last time they managed to arrest the vandals, but for unclear reasons after a short time they were released. We intend to turn not only to the police but also to the prosecutor's office," the leader of the Jewish community emphasized. (tr. by PDS, posted 19 August 2008)


Unidentified persons painted a swastika and antisemitic slogans on the walls of the Jewish community center of Vilnius last Sunday, while Jews throughout the world were marking a sad date on the Jewish calendar, 9 Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Old Testament temples and a number of other tragic events in the history of this people, the Agency of Jewish News reports.

Representatives of the Jewish community of the city made the decision to leave the graffiti uncovered "so that everyone can see how the local authorities are inactive with respect to antisemites." (tr. by PDS, posted 19 August 2008)

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Partial victory for protestants in camp case

Press Service of RSEKhB, 15 August 2008

A Moscow provincial court overturned the decision of the Istra city court regarding halting the activity of "Rucheek" camp because of violations of fire prevention standards, although a week earlier it left without change decisions of the same court based on the reason of violation of sanitary and epidemiological standards.

On 15 August a hearing was held in Moscow provincial court on a complaint by the director of "International College" and director of "Rucheek" camp Vladislav Vovok against the decision of the Istra city court (federal judge Bardin) regarding halting activity of the "Rucheek" children's camp, in which the "Transformation-2008" congress organized by the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RSEKhB) was held from 31 July to 4 August.

Judge Tatiana Anatolievna Mintinenko read the materials on the case of "Rucheek" camp in which she did not find convincing conclusions for administrative penalties on the administration of "Rucheek" camp, and after hearing convincing conclusions from Director Vladislav Vovok she made the decision to overturn the decision of Istra city court of 2 August 2008 by reason of absence of violations of fire prevention standards.

Earlier, on 8 August 2008, the same just left without change the decision of the Istra city court of 1 August 2008 (federal judge A.V. Alekseenko) in which the Istra city court imposed administrative penalty on the "Rucheek" camp in the form of halting activity for a 30 day period because of violation of sanitary and epidemiological standards. In the second case, the judge did not accept weighty argument from an attorney of the "Slavic Legan Center," A.V. Pchelintsev, and the explanations of the nonappearance at the judicial procedure of Vladislav Vovok for valid reasons.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2008)

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Georgian church leader visits Russian occupied territory

Blagovest-Info, 15 August 2008

Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II sent a letter to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a request to be granted the possibility to visit personally the city of Gori and Nikozsk diocese. "We ask you to give us the possibility to enter Gori and Nikozsk diocese and to organize a corridor for removing of would and the bodies of our dead heroes. We cherish the hope that all of this will be done peacefully," the letter says. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2008)

Interfax, 15 August 2008

Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II, who visited Gori on Thursday as part of a delegation of more than 120 representatives of news media and diplomatic missions, was shown that nothing was destroyed in the city, journalists were told by the deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian federation, Lt. Gen. Anatoly Nogoditsyn.

"They all were convinced that no kind of destruction, which the Georgian side has so graphically described, was found," the Russian commander emphasized at a briefing on Friday.

He said "the center of the city is whole and in the outskirts there are not such consequences as we have heard about from reports of several news media, and there couldn't be. From the very beginning we said that Gori is not a position for which the Russian forces would use heavy equipment and armament," Nogovitsyn stressed. (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2008)

Blagovest-Info, 15 August 2008

As Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II declared yesterday, by God's will peace will be established in Georgia.

At the cathedral church of the Holy Trinity, a panikhida was conducted for the souls of those killed during the conflict, Interpressnews reports. Before the start of the panikhida the patriarch addressed a sermon to the flock. Ilya II declared that Orthodox Russia is fighting with Orthodox Georgia, and in this conflict everyone has lost. The primate of the Georgian Orthodox church expressed the hope that the Lord will not let Georgia, which is under the protection of the Mother of God, perish.  "The Georgian nation will meet all trials with faith, love, and patience," the patriarch declared.

The patriarch called the population to give aid to refugees and victims, and with this goal the patriarchate has organized a collection of contributions.

"With God's help everything will end well. We must perform more good deeds, and with God's help peace will reign in Georgia," the patriarch said.

Ilya II called parishioners to lists of those who died during the conflict so that the church can pray for their souls.  (tr. by PDS, posted 15 August 2008)

Interfax, 15 August 2008

The head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow patriarchate Metropolitan Kirill, on the request of Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II, transmitted to the president and premier of Russia a letter from the primate of the Georgian church and he came to terms with the Russian military command regarding cooperation in a pastoral visit by Ilya II to the city of Gori.

"In the course of 14 and 15 August I had several telephone conversations with the patriarch of Georgia. Discussing the situation that has developed in connection with the military conflict and also the responsibility of the churches, both sides emphasized the positive consequence of those declarations of the primates which were made in the first hours of the war," Metropolitan Kirill reported to an Interfax-Religiia correspondent on Friday.

It was his conviction that "the peacemaking position of the two churches gives them the possibility of preserving the potential for further actions directed to healing of the wound which was delivered by the bloodshed."

The patriarch of Georgia asked Metropolitan Kirill to transmit the personal letter of Ilya II to Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. "The request of His Holiness and Blessedness was fulfilled and the letter was sent to the leaders of Russia through appropriate channels," the metropolitan said.

Also the primate of the Georgian church asked the metropolitan to work for his visit to Gori so that he could meet with people and, if necessary, deliver to them food products and support them pastorally.

"On our part we took all necessary steps in order to get the consent of the Russian military authorities for such a visit. We requested of the military leadership of our country cooperation in the patriarch's carrying out his pastoral mission," Metropolitan Kirill stated.

He said that the consent was received immediately as was a guarantee of security and cooperation with Patriarch Ilya in his visit to Gori and neighboring villages.  (tr. by PDS, posted 16 August 2008)

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Kiev patriarch calls for ceasefire

DOCUMENT:  Appeal of Patriarch of Kiev and all-Rus-Ukraine Filaret with regard to military actions in Georgia

Dear brothers and sisters

News about military actions on the territory of Georgia evokes pain in our hearts. The conflict which has dragged on many years developed into full scale war. And as in the time of every war, the civilian population suffers the most from its consequences. Our heart also is especially pierced with pain because citizens of neighboring states who are the faithful of the one Orthodox church of Christ are opposing one another with weapons in their hands.

It is not the task of the church to give political assessments; for this there is the state and there is the international community. But our Christian moral obligation is to call for a complete and unconditional cessation of military actions. Troops must stop. Questions of conflict need to be resolved with the help of diplomacy and not by military force, because violence engenders violence, and everyone who bears the sword in order to do evil will feel the force of the sword of God's judgment. That is what Christ says.

We call for God's blessing upon the peacemaking efforts of our President Viktor Yushchenko and the leaders and representatives of other states, directed toward a ceasefire and achievement of peace throughout Georgia. According to the words of the Savior, the one who wishes for peace is called the son of God.

In the past century peoples of the world experienced two world wars and numerous local military conflicts. Armed conflict of the two ideological systems nearly led to nuclear catastrophe and annihilation of life on the earth.  In the face of such danger the international community created several organizations, such as UN and CSCE, called to resolve at the negotiating table disputes existing between states. Several key rules of coexistence of states were worked out, among which were the inviolability of the state sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries.

Violation of these basic rules of international relations, unilateral interference in internal affairs, and use of military force against sovereign states, unsupported by some international mandate, place under threat the entire system of international relations. In such conditions not one country, including Ukraine, can feel itself secure. If the international community does not give a complete and objective evaluation to an incident of unilateral violation of the rules of the coexistence of states and does not take all measures for prevention of such in the future, tomorrow war may come to our home also. We pray the Lord that he turn this evil from us.

We pray the Lord that he will bring to reason the rulers and warriors who must cease fratricide. We turn to God with a prayer for the comfort of the souls of all victims of this war. We raise up our prayers for easing the sufferings of civilians of all nationalities who are suffering the miseries of war in Tskhinvali region and in other places of Georgia. I bless the performance of prayer for this in all churches of the Kievan patriarchate. In the name of our church I appeal to the leaders of other confessions of Ukraine to join in the prayer for peace in all of Georgia, the easing of the sufferings of all its residents, and rest for the deceased.


(tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2008)

Russian original posted on site, 14 August 2008

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Citizens object to Jehovah's Witnesses' building

Religiia i SMI, 5 August 2008

For this the sectarians acquired a parcel of land under a burned-out building on which they are constructing their own worship building.

The mayor's office of Dzerzhinsk of Nizhny Novgorod province began an investigation on the basis of complaints from residents against the actions of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, which, despite a prohibition, is building a religious facility, an employee of the press service of the Dzerzhinsk mayor's office reported on 4 August.

"A complaint from residents of the Sverdlov settlement microregion came to Dzerzhinsk Mayor Viktor Portnov regarding the illegal construction of a worship facility by representatives of the Jehovah's Witnesses," the press service employee said.

In May 2006, as a result of public hearings, the Jehovah's Witnesses in Dzerzhinsk were refused the assignment of land for construction of an auditorium. The press service employee specified that, according to residents, despite the prohibition, after acquiring a parcel with a burned-out building representatives of the sect have been constructing a building intended for worship.  (tr. by PDS, posted 14 August 2008)

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Russian Baptists on South Ossetia situation

Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, 13 August 2008

War. It was expected. All force structures of South Ossetia were prepared for a response to an attack from Georgia. Prepared, but what happened was not expected. Late in the night of 8 August 2008 the capital of South Ossetia, the city of Iskhinvali, and its neighboring villages were subjected to massive shelling from all forms of armament, including aviation. In a few hours the greater part of the city was turned into ruins. According to the president of the unrecognized republic, Eduard Kokota, more than 1400 persons died. There are quite a few wounded. The republic's hospital was destroyed. There is no potable water in the city. Food supplies are short.

Survivors, experiencing the horror of the night bombardment, stretched out in a column to North Ossetia. Women, children, and old men. Men remained to fight. True, up to the present time quite a few of the civilian population remain in the city of Tskhinvali and the village of South Ossetia. They do not intend to quit their native spaces. Refugees from South Ossetia have dispersed throughout the Southern Federal District. Some children have been taken in at Rostov province and Krasnodar territory. But the majority of refugees remain in North Ossetia. They are housed in pensions and children's camps. The North Ossetia Mission of Christian Mercy, at the request of the government of North Ossetia, has begun giving necessary aid.

There are protestant churches in Tskhinvali. Our brothers and sisters. The majority of them remained in the besieged city. Six months ago I and the "Tropinka" group from Vladikavkaz visited these churches. We conducted evangelistic services in the city House of Culture, in the house of worship of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, and in the church of Christians of Evangelical Faith. We visited needy Christians with one goal:  to inspire, encourage, and support them spiritually. Several members of the "Hope" EKhB church from Vladikavkaz visited South Ossetia monthly. They distributed necessary humanitarian aid and New Testaments. Thanks to the Institute of Bible Translation and the International Bible Society, before the beginning of military actions 15,000 New Testaments in the Ossetian language were printed. The thirst for the Word of God is inexhaustible. People stand in line for "heavenly bread."

At the present time I am in North Ossetia. We plan to give aid to refugees and we will remain residents of South Ossetia. In giving necessary humanitarian aid, members of churches of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists preach the gospel of Christ through deeds of mercy. And it comforts and calms hearts broken by grief.

If you want to help the needy people from South Ossetia, please contact the coordinator of social ministry of the Russian Union of EKhB, Peter Anatolievich Lunichkin by telephone: +7 928 6868888, +7 911 2834737. Send financial donations to the account of our brotherhood with the necessary notation "for the needy from South Ossetia."  (tr. by PDS, posted 13 August 2008)

Peter Lunichkin,

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Moscow suburb site of attacks on protestants


The department of internal affairs of the city of Chekhov of Moscow province refused to conduct an investigation of the incident of a fire in the house of worship of the Jehovah's Witnesses, "Kingdom Hall," a correspondent reports. A press release distributed by the Department for Relations with the Public of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses points out that the police department explains the reason for the refusal by the claims that it does not have at its disposal the results of the investigation of the fire department.

The fire occurred early in the morning of 11 July 2008. A representative of the congregation was on guard duty in the building and heard a loud blast such as usually occurs upon ignition of gasoline in containers. In the course of study of the circumstances of the event, remains of a canister with gasoline were found along with spilled gasoline on the grass. In addition it was established that ignition occurred at two points.

Representatives of the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses express amazement at the actions of the police and firefighters on that night. Thus, two police officers who arrived at the Kingdom Hall building, according to reports of eyewitnesses, stood not far away and watched as several members of the congregation took things out of the building. There also were notes in the journal of the department of fire service (according to the note, the alarm came in at 3:55 and after 10 minutes the fire squad was already at the site) that were inconsistent with the testimony of eyewitnesses:  "judging by photographs made with cell phones, firefighters arrived no earlier than 4:27." In addition, residents of neighboring buildings saw that the firefighters stood in the next street around 20 minutes "until one of the neighbors ran up to the fire truck and demanded that the squad immediately go to the site of the incident."

"The burning of the Jehovah's Witnesses' hall," the document says, "adds to the list of cases of attacks on places for conducting their religious meetings and is another incident in the campaign of violating freedom of religious confession which in the past year has reached the greatest intensity since the time of the foundation of the Russian federation."

In 2001 arson in the local Baptist church occurred in the city of Chekhov with the aid of a bottle with inflammable material by unidentified persons. The building was completely burned down as a result of the fire.

According to information of the chief editor of "Religion and Law," Anatoly Pchelintsev, "in this same region there were attempts at arson of churches of Pentecostals and Presbyterians. And the pastor of the local Pentecostal church, after two attacks, suffered a stroke. Unable to stand the threat he and his family received the status of political refugees and were forced to emigrate." (tr. by PDS, posted 13 August 2008)

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Churches refrain from supporting armies in battle

Patriarch Alexis II and Catholicos-Patriarch of all-Georgia Ilya II call for ceasefire in Caucasus
by Pavel Krug
NG-Religii, 12 August 2008

Patriarch Alexis II of Moscow and all-Rus and Catholicos of all-Georgia Ilya II called in the first days of the conflict over South Ossetia for the sides to cease fire and return to peace talks. However the accents in their statements were arranged differently. "We are not at war with anyone; we are trying to defend our native land. We have thought and now think of Ossetians as our brothers and we call them to remain brothers. This struggle is dangerous," Ilya II declared on the first day of the expanded war, 8 August. At the time of the Sunday sermon he called Georgians "not to fight anything" and he optimistically declared: "Time will pass, everything will settle down, and the peoples will again be friends like before."

At the same time Patriarch Alexis II called those "who today are blinded by anger" to stop the bloodshed and "not permit a multiplication of today's conflict." "Blood is now flowing on the land of South Ossetia and people are dying, which profoundly pains my heart. Among those who are raising their hands against one another are Orthodox Christians. Moreover, Orthodox peoples, whom the Lord has called to live in brotherhood and love, are confronting one another " the Moscow patriarch declared. Pope Benedict XVI also called the sides to cease fire. However even after such powerful calls to stop the violence, military clashes between Georgian  and Russian-South Ossetian forces continued, as also the bombing of Georgian cities by Russian aviation continued. Yesterday information appeared, citing Ossetian sources, of the burning of a church in the village of Khetagurovo, outside Tskhinvali, by Georgian troops. On the first day of the conflict Archbishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkas Feofan (Ashurkov) issued a demand to immediately stop the bloodshed; yesterday he visited a camp for refugees near the city of Alagir.

The current conflict has a church dimension also. Ossetians do not want to be subject to the Georgian patriarchate, although officially RPTs has always recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as the canonical territory of the Georgian Orthodox church. Today church hierarchs are making their peacemaking statements, but the conflict is expanding. As if it would be necessary for them soon to bless the weapons of "the Christ-loving troops," showing whose side God is on in the battle. But what can justify war between Orthodox believers? (tr. by PDS, posted 12 August 2008)

Russian original posted on site, 12 August 2008

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Georgian patriarch says Russian attack unprecedented


Patriarch-Catholicos of all-Georgia Ilya II devoted his Sunday sermon delivered after the Divine Liturgy in the Holy Trinity cathedral of Tbilisi on 10 August to the situation surrounding the military-political crisis in Georgia.

As a correspondent reports, citing the official website of the Georgian patriarchate, the patriarch expressed his concern that Orthodox Russians have bombed Orthodox servants of Georgia, recalling that such aggression has never before been in the history of the two nations.

"Actually, we are confronted by very serious danger, but we are not frightened by this," the patriarch said. "God is with us and the Holy Virgin Mary will protect us, but at the same time one circumstance affects us very deeply; it is that Orthodox Russians are bombing Orthodox servants of Georgia. This is an unprecedented act in the history of relations between our countries."

The head of the Georgian patriarchate called his flock "to intensify prayers for the salvation of God-preserved Georgia." (tr. by PDS, posted 11 August 2008)

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