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U.S. accuses Russia of war crimes after bombing of Mariupol theater; Russia makes bond payment – CNBC

Dresden’s Ukraine Catholic Parish offers donations to refugees

The Ukraine Catholic Parish in Dresden, Germany collects donations for refugees.

Boxes with textiles stand on a meadow in a donation collection point organized by Dresden’s Ukraine Catholic parish, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Dresden, Germany, March 17, 2022.

Matthias Rietschel | Reuters

Refugees from Ukraine look for textiles in a donation collection point organised by Dresden’s Ukraine Catholic parish, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Dresden, Germany, March 17, 2022.

Matthias Rietschel | Reuters

Refugees from Ukraine look for clothing in a donation collection point organised by Dresden’s Ukraine Catholic parish, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Dresden, Germany, March 17, 2022.

Matthias Rietschel | Reuters

Refugees from Ukraine wait in front of a donation collection point organized by Dresden’s Ukraine Catholic parish, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Dresden, Germany, March 17, 2022.

Matthias Rietschel | Reuters

— Scott Mlyn

Russia has attacked 43 health care facilities in Ukraine, WHO Director says

People react as they evacuate from a village occupied by Russian troops on the front line, in the north Kyiv region, Ukraine March 17, 2022.

Gleb Garanich | Reuters

More than 700 people have died since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“The total consists of 726 people killed, including 52 children, and 1,174 injured including 63 children,” Ghebreyesus said, adding that “the actual number is likely much higher.”

The destruction of infrastructure has led to a severe disruption to health services and access to basic commodities, he said.

He added that the WHO has verified 43 attacks on healthcare facilities and has tracked at least 12 deaths.

“In any conflict, attacks on healthcare are a violation of international humanitarian law,” he added.

– Amanda Macias

U.S. House votes to strip Russia’s most favored nation trade status

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., conducts her weekly news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center where she addressed the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, March 17, 2022.

Tom Williams | Cq-roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

The U.S. House overwhelmingly voted to strip Russia of its protected trading status, passing the legislation on to the Senate in the first step allowing the U.S. to levy fresh taxes on more of the nation’s goods.

The measure has wide support in the Senate as the U.S. and its allies move to do more damage to Russia’s economy in response to Moscow’s three-week long assault on Ukraine. President Joe Biden endorsed the move last week.

Underscoring the broad support for hampering the Russian economy, the House passed the measure in a 424-8 vote.

— Jacob Pramuk

U.S. Secretary of State accuses Kremlin of war crimes

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, at the State Department in Washington, March 17, 2022.

Saul Loeb | Pool | Reuter

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believes Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, citing numerous instances of attacks on civilians.

“President Biden said that, in his opinion, war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Personally, I agree. Intentionally targeting civilians is a war crime,” Blinken said during a press conference at the State Department.

“After all, the destruction of the past three weeks, I find it difficult to conclude that the Russians are doing otherwise,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

Some Russia creditors have received dollar bond payment, sources

Russia’s central bank in Moscow.

Gavriil Grigorov | TASS | Getty Images

Some creditors have received payment, in dollars, of Russian bond coupons which fell due this week, two market sources said on Thursday, meaning Russia may for now have averted what would have been its first external bond default in a century.

The Russian finance ministry said earlier that it had sent funds to cover $117 million in coupon payments on two dollar-denominated sovereign bonds.

The payments, due on March 16 but with a 30-day grace period, are seen as the first test of whether Moscow will meet its international debt obligations after Western sanctions hobbled its financial dealings. “The coupon was paid, against my expectations, and in dollars,” one person said. Another person said the money had been received by a client who was a bondholder.

Some other creditors said they had yet to receive their funds but were optimistic they were on the way, noting they had received payments on hard currency bonds from a raft of state-run and private Russian companies in recent days.

— Reuters

State Department confirms death of a U.S. citizen in Chernihiv

An external view shows hotel ‘Ukraine’ destroyed during an air strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in central Chernihiv, Ukraine March 12, 2022.

Oleh Holovatenko | Reuters

A U.S. citizen was among those killed in an attack Thursday on the besieged northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv, a State Department spokesperson confirmed.

“We can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen in Ukraine on March 17. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss. Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment,” the spokesperson wrote.

The State Department did not comment further on the circumstances around the death nor provide details on the person’s identity.

– Amanda Macias

Russia makes sovereign bond payment in dollars, Reuters reports

Russia appears to have avoided defaulting on its sovereign debt despite the sanctions hampering its central bank.

Reuters, citing a source familiar with the situation, reported on Thursday that Russia made two payments in dollars and that the money would soon be distributed to bondholders.

The debt market drama comes as Russia has largely been cut out of the global financial system due to its war in Ukraine. In order to avoid default, Russia needed to make the payments in dollars and not the rapidly weakening ruble.

It was unclear if foreign banks would process the payments or allow Russia to access its accounts.

— Jesse Pound

War damages Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Photos show a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant compound in southeastern Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country.

A view shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant compound, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022.

National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom | via Reuters

An interior view shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant compound, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022. 

National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom | via Reuters

An interior view shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant compound, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022. 

National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom | via Reuters

An interior view shows a damaged building at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant compound, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released March 17, 2022.

National Nuclear Energy Generating Company Energoatom | via Reuters

— Adam Jeffery

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin says enforcing a no-fly zone would mean ‘combat’ with Russia

U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and Slovakia’s Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad attend a news conference in the Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic in Bratislava, Slovakia, March 17, 2022.

Radovan Stoklasa | Reuters

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated that America does not want to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine because it would mean “combat” with Russian forces.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pleaded with the U.S. and its NATO allies to set up a no-fly zone to stem Russian bombing that has devastated Ukrainian civilians. The Biden administration has declined to do so because it could mean direct conflict with Russian forces.

Biden has said the U.S. will not send troops to Ukraine, but he approved $800 million in new defense assistance on Wednesday.

Austin, speaking at a joint news conference with Slovakian Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, added that the U.S. State Department is reviewing Russian attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

— Jacob Pramuk

Ukraine prepares to defend Odessa

Ukraine prepares to defend Odessa from Russian attacks on the strategic Black Sea port city.

People walk among anti-tank barriers placed to protect historic landmarks in expectation of a Russian assault on the strategic Black Sea port city on March 14, 2022 of Odessa, Ukraine. 

Scott Peterson | Getty Images

Volunteers fill sand bags at a beach in Odesa, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Jonathan Alpeyrie | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Locals carry sandbags, filled with sand from Sobachyy beach, to bolster the city’s defences, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues in Odessa, Ukraine, March 14, 2022.

Nacho Doce | Reuters

A Ukrainian military personnel is seen at a checkpoint near a train track, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Odessa, Ukraine, March 14, 2022.

Nacho Doce | Reuters

A monument to Odessa’s city founder Duke de Richelieu is protected with sand bags in Odessa on March 17, 2022. 

Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images

A barricade is pictured in front of the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet in Odessa on March 17, 2022.

Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images

A woman walks between barriers placed on street, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in downtown Odessa, Ukraine, March 12, 2022.

Nacho Doce | Reuters

— Adam Jeffery

UN says price hikes fueled by war will hurt vulnerable communities

A vendor sells cereals in Nairobi on March 16, 2022. African countries are feeling the pain of Ukraine’s crisis as supply disruptions hike inflation and oil prices push up fuel costs.

Simon Maina | AFP | Getty Images

The crop and energy price increases driven by Russia’s assault on Ukraine are hurting some of the world’s most vulnerable rural communities, the United Nations said.

The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development noted that the war will hurt not only food insecure people who rely on crops like wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but also small farmers who face increased costs for energy and fertilizer.

“We are already seeing price hikes and this could cause an escalation of hunger and poverty with dire implications for global stability,” IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said in a statement.

The UN agency said farmers or rural communities in countries such as Somalia, Egypt and Lebanon could feel disproportionate pain from rising prices.

— Jacob Pramuk

A funeral service for fallen Ukrainian soldiers takes place in Lviv

A memorial and funeral service for fallen Ukrainian soldiers has taken place in Lviv.

At the weekend, Russian missiles pounded a military base near the city, which is only 20 miles (33 km) from the border with NATO nation Poland. Ukraine officials said 35 people were killed and 135 injured in the attack.

Servicemen hold coffins as relatives and friends mourn the death of four fallen Ukrainian servicemen, Oleg Vashchyshyn, Kyrylo Vyshyvanyi, Rostyslav Romanchuk and Serhiy Melnyk, who were killed in a rocket attack against a military base in Yavoriv during the ongoing Russian invasion, during a memorial and funeral service in Lviv, Ukraine, March 15, 2022. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reutersa

SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB Family members and comrades of Ivan Skrypnyk, who was killed in a rocket attack against a military base in Yavoriv during the ongoing Russian invasion, pays their last respect during his memorial service in Lviv, Ukraine, March 17, 2022.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

Family members and comrades of Ivan Skrypnyk, who was killed in a rocket attack against a military base in Yavoriv during the ongoing Russian invasion, pays their last respect during his memorial service in Lviv, Ukraine, March 17, 2022.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

Family members and comrades of Ivan Skrypnyk, who was killed in a rocket attack against a military base in Yavoriv during the ongoing Russian invasion, pay their last respect during his memorial service in Lviv, Ukraine, March 17, 2022.

Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

— Adam Jeffery

Biden will speak with China’s Xi this week

US President Joe Biden meets with China’s President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, November 15, 2021.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden will speak with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China this Friday, the White House announced.

The discussion comes amid warnings from Washington that the world’s second-largest economy should not come to Russia’s aid following rounds of punishing sanctions.

“The two leaders will discuss managing the competition between our two countries as well as Russia’s war against Ukraine and other issues of mutual concern,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote in a statement.

The call follows an intense seven-hour meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials in Rome on Monday. The U.S. delegation, led by national security adviser Jake Sullivan, conveyed to Beijing’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, that China should not assist Russia amid the Kremlin’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

— Amanda Macias

Lithuania joins calls for no-fly zone above Ukraine

Lithuania’s Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday that calls on the U.N. to “take immediate action to secure a no-fly zone over Ukraine to stop the mass deaths of civilians.”

Lithuania is the second country to officially ask for a no-fly zone above Ukraine, Estonia being the first.

Ukrainian officials have been urging Western allies to impose a no-fly zone over the country for weeks.

But the leaders of NATO, the U.S. and the U.K. have ruled such a move out, arguing that a no-fly zone could only be enforced by shooting down Russian planes — which they say would only escalate the war.

— Chloe Taylor

Moscow’s claims about Mariupol bombing a ‘sick disgrace,’ U.S. official says

People walk near a block of flats, which was destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine March 17, 2022.

Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters

Moscow’s attempts to justify attacks on the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are a “sick disgrace,” a U.S. official said Thursday.

Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in an address to the organization’s Permanent Council in Vienna that the “heartbreaking” bombing of a theater in Mariupol yesterday — where hundreds of civilians had taken shelter — was an act of “cruelty and evil.”

Mariupol has been the center of intense conflict in recent weeks, with the Red Cross saying that hundreds of thousands of civilians had been trapped in the city. There have since been some successful evacuations, but early attempts to get civilians out of the city were halted when Ukraine said Russian forces were violating cease-fire agreements.

Last week, Moscow claimed that photos of pregnant women being carried out of a bombed maternity hospital in Mariupol were staged, saying there were no patients in the hospital when it was shelled — despite the photographic evidence.  

Carpenter told the OSCE Thursday that these claims were “a sick disgrace,” and “abject debasement.”

He added the Kremlin was also spreading “outright lies” about chemical and biological weapons activities in Ukraine.

“It appears that the Russian Federation has so completely lost touch with reality that its only recourse now is to attempt to eliminate all facts and replace them with fabricated falsehoods,” Carpenter said.  

A spokesperson for the Russian government was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

— Chloe Taylor

Russia and Ukraine not close to an agreement, Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a flag-raising ceremony on the ferry Marshal Rokossovsky via a video link at his residence outside Moscow, Russia March 4, 2022.

Alexey Nikolsky | Sputnik | Reuters

In a regular press briefing Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia and Ukraine were not close to signing an agreement on ending the war.

“Work continues — when there is progress, we will inform,” he said, according to an NBC News translation.

He added that the Russian delegation was “ready to work around the clock,” but claimed that “the Ukrainian side does not show zeal.”

Officials from both the Russian and Ukrainian sides have said in recent days that there has seemed to be hope for compromise in the latest rounds of talks.

— Chloe Taylor

Kremlin says Biden labeling Putin a war criminal was ‘inadmissible’

U.S. President Joe Biden’s branding of Russian leader Vladimir Putin as a war criminal is “inadmissible,” the Kremlin said Thursday.

“Such statements by Biden are absolutely inadmissible and inexcusable,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a regular briefing.

“And most importantly, the head of [the] state which bombed people all over the world for many years, dropped atomic bombs on a country that had already been defeated, cannot have the right to make them. The president of such a country has no right to such words at all, this is our deep conviction.”

Biden said Wednesday that he believes Putin “is a war criminal” for his attacks on Ukraine, marking the first time Biden has publicly labeled Putin with that descriptor.

— Chloe Taylor

9 humanitarian corridors opened across Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers help an elderly woman to cross a destroyed bridge as she evacuates the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

Ukraine’s Presidential Office has confirmed that nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed to allow the evacuation of civilians on Thursday.

The confirmation came after Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced earlier in the morning that the routes had been negotiated.

Civilians will be evacuated from towns and cities in the Donetsk region, the Kyiv region and the Kharkiv region, Vereshchuk said.

— Chloe Taylor

There are survivors in rubble of bombed Mariupol theater, local official tells BBC

This image made available by Azov Battalion, shows the drama theater, damaged after shelling, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Thursday March 17, 2022.

Azov Battalion | AP

The bomb shelter inside the Mariupol theater hit by Russian shelling yesterday has held up, a local official has told the BBC.

Dmytro Gurin, a lawmaker from the besieged city, told the BBC Thursday that more than 1,000 women and children had taken shelter in the theater. But authorities were not yet aware if anyone had been injured or killed, he added.

Russia has denied being responsible for the bombing.

Satellite images taken on March 14 by U.S. government-linked Maxar appear to show the theater prior to the bombing, with the word “children” spelled out — in Russian — in large letters in front of and behind the building.

— Chloe Taylor

Ukraine’s Zelenskyy calls out German lawmakers

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy receives standing ovations before he addresses the German Bundestag via live video from Kyiv on March 17, 2022.

Hannibal Hanschke | Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has addressed lawmakers in Germany’s Bundestag.

Speaking via videolink, Ukraine’s President warned that “obviously sanctions are not enough to stop this war.”

He accused Germany of acting too late to help Ukraine, and of prioritizing its own economy over ending the conflict.

Germany has been criticized for what many view as meager investment in its military and a slow and lackluster response to Russia’s military buildup around, and subsequent invasion of, Ukraine.

“Not all of you notice yet, but you’re not behind the Berlin wall now, you’re in the middle of Europe,” Zelenskyy said to German politicians on Thursday.

“If you just look over this wall, you will see … you could have done a Berlin air bridge to make our skies safe.”

 Zelenskyy warned that if Germany did not take more action to stop the war, “Europe will not survive, will not preserve its values.”

Appealing directly to Germans who lived through the Second World War, Zelenskyy added: “Every year the politicians say: ‘Never again.’ These words are not worth anything.”

“Where is your leadership?” he said. “Why is the country beyond the Atlantic closer to us than you? There’s a wall. [As] former U.S. President Ronald Reagan said in Berlin, break down this wall. And I want to say to you, Chancellor Scholz, break down this wall.”

— Chloe Taylor

Russia denies bombing theater where civilians were sheltering

Image appearing to show theater in Mariupol on March 14, prior to its bombing on March 16. The image appears to show the word “children” spelled out in Russian in front of and behind the theater.

Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies

Russia on Wednesday denied its forces had bombed a theater in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where more than a thousand civilians were said to be sheltering.

The bombing of the theater was condemned by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba as a war crime.

“Today the invaders destroyed the Drama Theatre. A place where more than a thousand people found refuge,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in a statement late Wednesday night. “We will never forgive this.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement Wednesday that it denied allegations it was responsible for the attack, claiming that its forces “did not perform any tasks related to imposing strikes on ground targets in Mariupol” on March 16.

Satellite images from Maxar taken on March 14 appear to show the theater prior to the bombing, with the word “children” spelled out — in Russian — in large letters in front of and behind the building.

Maxar provides 90% of the foundational geospatial intelligence used by the U.S. government for national security.

Details of victims of the bombing have not yet been released.

Authorities have struggled to evacuate residents from Mariupol, where the Red Cross says hundreds of thousands of people have been trapped by the conflict. There have been successful evacuations in recent days, but early evacuation attempts had to be halted because Ukrainian authorities said Russia was violating cease-fire agreements in the city.

— Chloe Taylor

53 people were killed in Chernihiv yesterday, governor says

A man covers a dead body after a residential buildings hit by a Russian attack in Chernihiv, Ukraine on March 17, 2022.

State Emergency Service of Ukraine | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Viacheslav Chaus, governor of the Chernihiv region, said Thursday via Telegram that Russian attacks had led to multiple civilian deaths on Wednesday.

“We suffer great losses. Just yesterday, the city morgues received 53 bodies of our citizens who were killed by the Russian aggressor,” he said.

CNBC has not been able to independently verify the figures.

— Chloe Taylor

27 homes destroyed in Luhansk, official says

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional state administration, said Thursday morning that at least 27 houses in the city of Rubizhne had been set on fire in shelling strikes overnight.

“The Russians made hell in Rubizhne on the night of March 16-17, and the shelling lasted all night,” he said in a Telegram post.

Haidai said there had also been fires in the cities of Popasna and Sievierodonetsk, and that information about victims of the bombings was being clarified.

“The townspeople are losing their relatives, their homes are burning,” he said. “However, the Russian army continues to purposefully fire on civilians who are not even allowed to leave safely.”

CNBC has not been able to independently verify the details of the attacks.

— Chloe Taylor

Kyiv airstrike kills 1, Ukrainian authorities say

An aerial view shows firemen working in the rubble of a residential building which was hit by the debris from a downed rocket in Kyiv on March 17, 2022.

Fadel Senna | AFP | Getty Images

One person was killed in Kyiv in the early hours of Thursday morning when an apartment block was bombed, Ukraine’s State Emergency Services have said.

The multi-story building in the Darnytsky district of the capital caught fire after being hit by a missile, authorities said.

“According to preliminary information, 30 people were evacuated, three of whom were injured,” the SES said in a statement. “One person has been killed. The information is being specified.”

— Chloe Taylor

Read CNBC’s previous live coverage here:

Russian invasion ‘largely stalled on all fronts,’ says UK ministry

Russian forces have made “minimal” progress in their invasion of Ukraine in recent days and continue to suffer heavy losses, the U.K. Ministry of Defence said Thursday.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine has largely stalled on all fronts,” including land, sea and air, the ministry said in a intelligence update.

Ukrainian resistance remains stubborn and well coordinated, the ministry said, with all major Ukrainian cities and most territory still in Ukrainian hands.

Russia’s foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

— Ted Kemp

Russia resorting to ‘older, less precise’ weapons

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire broke out at the Saltivka construction market, hit by 6 rounds of Russian heavy artillery in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 16, 2022.

Andrea Carrubba | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Russian forces attacking Ukraine are likely turning to less precise heavy weapons that are less effective from a military standpoint and more likely to kill civilians, a European government said.

The U.K. Defence Ministry said late Wednesday local time that Russia has expended more of its “stand-off air launched weapons” than it had expected, because it has failed to achieve its objectives or to gain control of Ukrainian airspace.

“Stand-off” weaponry refers to missiles that Russian aircraft can fire from a long distance without exposing themselves to Ukrainian anti-aircraft weapons. Ukraine’s anti-aircraft capabilities are still active and taking down Russian helicopters and jets.

“As a result, it is likely Russia is resorting to the use of older, less precise weapons, which are less militarily effective and more likely to result in civilian casualties,” the ministry said in an intelligence update.

Weapons like rockets, “dumb” unguided bombs, and long-range artillery are less accurate and therefore more likely to hit unintended targets.

Russia’s foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

According to the most recent confirmed UN figures, more than 700 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the invasion began, but the actual number is likely to be much higher.

Death tolls from cities under artillery bombardment, such as Kharkiv and Mariupol, are unknown.

— Ted Kemp

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