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Butina Communicated with Russian Spy Agency, Faked Romance with Erickson, Prepped to Flee

In my interview with Patrick Lalley on KSOO yesterday, I declined to use the word “spying” to describe accused Russian “agent” Maria Butina’s activities at Teenage Republican Camp and elsewhere in South Dakota.

I so decline no longer. In its argument to keep Butina in jail awaiting trial, the government says Butina has been in contact with the Russian FSB, the spy agency used to be Putin’s KGB, throughout her time in America. From the government’s memo to the court today:

The FBI has uncovered evidence during the course of executing several search warrants that, during the course of her deployment to the United States, Butina was in contact with officials believed to be Russian intelligence operatives. First, the defendant maintained contact information for individuals identified as employees of the Russian FSB, the Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii, the main successor agency to the USSR’s Committee of State Security, the KGB. For example, in the defendant’s electronic contact list, there was an email account listed at an FSB-associated domain. Another document uncovered during the execution of a search warrant contained a hand-written note, entitled “Maria’s ‘Russian Patriots In-Waiting’ Organization,” and asking “How to respond to FSB offer of employment?” Based on this and other evidence, the FBI believes that the defendant was likely in contact with the FSB throughout her stay in the United States. Additionally, FBI surveillance observed Butina in the company of a Russian diplomat in the weeks leading up to that official’s departure from the United States in March 2018. That Russian diplomat, with whom Butina was sharing a private meal, was suspected by the United States Government of being a Russian intelligence officer. The concern that Butina poses a risk of flight is only heightened due to her connection to suspected Russian intelligence operatives [Government’s Memorandum in Support of Pre-Trail Detention, United States of America v. Mariia/Maria Butina, case #1:18-cr-00218-TSC, 2018.07.18, pp. 3–4].

The government contends nothing short of jail will keep Butina from running for “safe harbor in a diplomatic facility.”

Prosecutors include this March 2017 e-mail exchange in which Butina’s boss, Russian state bank official and NRA infiltrator Alexander Torshin, says Butina is doing a better job than outed Russian redhead spy Anna Chapman:

This photo is for real. Maria Butina, in GQ Russia, 2014.
This photo is for real. Maria Butina, in GQ Russia, April 2014, and in the imagination of every ammosexual American with whom she forged her working relationships.

Russian Official: Good morning! How are you faring there in the rays of the new fame?[] Are your admirers asking for your autographs yet? You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones. There are a hell of a lot of rumors circulating here about me too! Very funny!

Butina: It is curious that only our liberal media published the translation of the article. Yesterday I was pressing for an interview to Komsomolka but they are silent. It was probably our [people] that stood up for me.

Russian Official: I only saw it in the Echo [of Moscow] Blog and on the InoSMI site. What do you expect from the liberals anyway?!

Butina: It’s the other thing that is important: evidently, there is an Order not to touch us. I believe it is a good sign.

Russian Official: For now – yes, but should things shift, then we are guaranteed a spot on the list of ‘agents of influence.” . . .

Butina: It’s better to keep a low profile now. For some time. You probably got in trouble because of that nasty leak? Sorry. . . [translation from Russian, in gov’t memo, 2018.07.18, p. 5].

The American fellows whom Butina plied with her wiles will be disappointed to learn she had all the money she needed from a Russian billionaire:

In addition to her ties to the Russian government, there is evidence that Butina is well- connected to wealthy businessmen in the Russian oligarchy. Her Twitter messages, chat logs, and emails refer to a known Russian businessman with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration. This person often travels to the United States and has also been referred to as her “funder” throughout her correspondence; he was listed in Forbes as having a real-time net worth of $1.2 billion as of 2018. Immediately prior to her first trip to the United States in late 2014, Butina engaged in a series of text messages with a different wealthy Russian businessman regarding budgets for her trip to the United States and meetings with the aforementioned “funder.” Individuals such as these wealthy businessmen could, through their wealth and influence, be in a position to offer a safe harbor for Butina [gov’t memo, 2018.07.18, p. 7].

One American fellow in particular—identified in court documents strictly as “U.S. Person 1” but widely reported to be South Dakota Republican political operative Paul Erickson—will be disappointed to see his collaboration with Butina is being made public in court documents. Evidently, U.S. Person 1 discussed with Butina the best way to falsely enter the country and then supported that part of the conspiracy by doing her American University homework for her:

The FBI has uncovered electronic communications revealing Butina’s involvement in the planning of the covert influence operation with U.S. Person 1. This series of communications included a discussion about how Butina could best enter and remain in the United States. Butina chose a student visa from a range of options for her ultimate application, but not before a lengthy discussion of the risks associated with traveling to the United States repeatedly on a tourist visa. The FBI has discovered text messages and emails between U.S. Person 1 and Butina in which Butina would routinely ask U.S. Person 1 to help complete her academic assignments, by editing papers and answering exam questions. In other words, although she attended classes and completed coursework with outside help, attending American University was Butina’s cover while she continued to work on behalf of the Russian Official [gov’t memo, 2018.07.18, p. 7].

And the boffing—the tragic boffing! Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee during eight hours of testimony in April that she was having a romantic relationship with Erickson, but the government says Butina’s shacking up with Erickson was strictly business, and she was using her feminine charms to pursue other marks:

During the course of this investigation, the FBI has determined that Butina gained access through U.S. Person 1 to an extensive network of U.S. persons in positions to influence political activities in the United States. Butina, age 29, and U.S. Person 1, age 56, are believed to have cohabitated and been involved in a personal relationship during the course of Butina’s activities in the United States. But this relationship does not represent a strong tie to the United States because Butina appears to treat it as simply a necessary aspect of her activities. For example, on at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S. Person 1 [govt’ memo, 2018.07.18, p. 8].

WaPo reported last night that the feds swooped in to arrest Butina Sunday because she was planning to leave D.C. for South Dakota again. The government contends that Butina was getting ready to bolt and that her false true love was knowingly abetting her covert influence operation and her escape:

Finally, in the days leading up to her arrest, Butina was observed by the FBI taking steps consistent with a plan to leave the Washington, D.C., area and possibly the United States. First, Butina applied for a B1/B2 visa, which would allow her to travel to and from the United States. On July 14, 2018, Butina and U.S. Person 1 were followed to a U-Haul truck rental facility where they inquired about renting a moving truck and purchased moving boxes. When agents executed a warrant at their Washington, D.C., apartment on July 15, 2018, the defendant’s belongings were packed and a letter was discovered notifying the landlord that the lease was to be terminated on July 31, 2018.

In addition, on July 12, 2018, Butina and U.S. Person 1 were observed entering a bank in Washington, D.C., and sending an international wire transfer in the amount of $3,500 to an account in Russia. Although the government does not proffer that it knows the purpose of that transfer at this point, the amount shows her access to funds, and the location of the recipient underscores her ties to Russia.

Even if Butina were only trying to leave the immediate Washington, D.C., area, her sole real tie to the United States at all is U.S. Person 1, who, as the affidavit in support of the complaint demonstrates, was instrumental in aiding her covert influence operation, despite knowing its connections to the Russian Official [gov’t memo, 2018.07.18, pp. 8–9].

The government says it has “numerous witnesses [who] will testify about the influence activities described in the complaint.” By emphasizing Butina’s lack of real affection for her American patron, the government may be signaling that “U.S. Person 1” has more to gain by turning and testifying against his faux lover instead of going to jail for the spy who “loved” him.


  1. Barry G. Wick 2018-07-18 12:48

    Unfortunately, many Americans don’t realize how serious the war with Russia really is. We can no longer trust our President to defend this nation against all enemies…and, in fact, might not respond to military attacks on US military or civilian assets. Russians spying on the US and influencing US citizens has gone on for years. There really hasn’t been any change since “cold war” days. There are others spying for Russia around this nation…and possibly in the “oval office.”

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-18 12:53

    Judge denied Butina’s last-minute motion to appear in court in civilian clothes rather than jail duds and without restraints: “By said motion, counsel for Defendant requests action by the United States Marshal Service not customarily provided, except in instances in which an individual in custody appears before a jury. In any event, said motion was not filed until forty minutes prior to the start of the scheduled hearing, affording no opportunity for consideration by the Marshal of said request. So Ordered by Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson on 7/18/2018.”

  3. Jason 2018-07-18 12:56


    Do you think the US spies on Russia and hacks their computers?

    “oval office”? I assume you mean Obama when he whispered to Medvedev:

    “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Obama told Medvedev at a gathering in Seoul, South Korea.

  4. Miranda Gohn 2018-07-18 12:57

    I volunteered at a Richard Painter for US Senate rally at Metro State last night in St. Paul and the auditorium was packed. Former life long moderate Republican who teaches ethics at the University of Minnesota Law School & now running in the DFL primary. His facebook page has “Ethical Leadership” No PAC, Dark or special interest money, No Rubles and No Russian Agents. Only accepts small individual donations from Americans.

    They just posted the rally on his facebook page or youtube (PainterMinnesota) along with as always a Q & A.

    Let’s send Richard Painter and Tim Bjorkman to Washington.

  5. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 12:58

    Drumpf denied today that Russia was hacking the 2018 election.

  6. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-07-18 12:59

    The Rapid City Journal article on Erickson from last February was quite comprehensive,* except that it left one tidbit out. Because back in August of 1981 – during the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall – Erickson and some of his fellow National College Republicans built a temporary wall of cinder blocks and barb wire around the Soviet Aeroflot ticket office on 17th St. in Washington, D.C., as a symbolic protest, which garnered national media attention at the time (like the CBS Evening News)…. But now speed forward to today and boy has the world change, huh, for Erickson, that is?…. Once a protestor against the Soviet bear, but today a facilitator of the politics of a former KGB spy in the name of Putin… Isn’t it funny how the blind ambition of capitalism can at times take you down many different roads, where some will have a wall of design while others appear to have a wall building up around you….



  7. laurensd1 2018-07-18 13:00

    Butina: “It’s the other thing that is important: evidently, there is an Order not to touch us. I believe it is a good sign.”

    Trying to figure out if this is what I think it means.
    Does it mean they assumed they were under some sort of U.S. protection umbrella?
    (Who gave this order? ) We can guess!
    I have been following this through various threads on Twitter for a couple of months after her Senate testimony.
    The first red flag was the Bridges LLC in Sioux Falls. I got the impression that the general consensus was that Erickson was a blowhard wannabe GOP loser. Turns our he had the connections he boasted of. And how!

    Good thing they did not plan to have mutated children.

  8. Roger Cornelius 2018-07-18 13:38

    Hopefully the feds are getting close to arresting Erickson, it sounds as though they have the goods on him.
    It has never been a secret that the U.S. spies on Russia and many other countries. The simple fact is that there is no right or wrong about spying, for many it is called national security and is a crucial part of our defense system.

  9. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 13:56

    She might be talking about diplomatic immunity, which can keep her from being criminally charged but wouldn’t save her butt from being deported.

  10. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 13:59

    Raw Story or a story about Butina and an unknown 56 year old lover, but she offered sex to another guy for a job. I assumed the 56 y/o was Erickson.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if the other guy was Drumpf. Right up his alley.

  11. leslie 2018-07-18 14:00

    Unfettered capitalism brought us EB5 fraud on chinese and koreans. Whnat connections did “EB5” Joop have w Erickson? Erickson’s LA home? Did Marty require cooperation from Joop? Jason-u think Obama was a puppet? Can’t you go bother some other little “red” state? Hilarious GW foto btw prolly from the “pee” vid. Trump is a con and GOP owns this descent into hell.:)

  12. Miranda Gohn 2018-07-18 15:05

    Mike from Iowa,

    How they could get away with that is shocking. It’s scary, unethical in my opinion & far reaching! At just about every level of the Federal government with all the distractions coming President Trump the Executive and legislative branch are eliminating protections with some that took us decades to put into place.

    2018 and 2020 are incredibly important elections.

  13. David Hubbard 2018-07-18 16:54

    For those questioning if America spies on Russia, the answer is, “Of course we do.” However, the difference is we still believe in the rule of law and we are treating this prisoner accordingly. Have any of you noticed the body count of Russian Journalists who opposed Putin?

    Russia is not America’s friend. Russia is not our ally. While I agree with Sen. Rounds that we should try to improve relations with Russia, they are still our enemy. Do not be so naive. They did not attack the 2016 Presidential Election because they are Trump’s cheerleaders. They seek to cripple America, and have admitted to doing so, again and again.

    For a group of people who have suspicions regarding almost everyone and everything, conservatives seem all too willing to cozy up to a Communist dictatorship. I hope you all are brushing up on your Russia, you may need it.

    As for me, there is only one Russian phrase I learned when I served in the US Army; “До свидания, Иван” or “Good-bye, Ivan” followed by two loud bangs from whatever weapon I was carrying at the time.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-18 17:08

    David, given that Putin is waging psy-ops against us, and given that the Commander in Chief not only is taking no action to counter that threat but denies its very existence, it looks like it’s up to patriots like us to follow in the tradition of the Minutemen and defend our country. Shall we call ourselves the Mundt Brigade? And once we properly name our brigade, what actions shall we take? :-)

  15. mike from iowa 2018-07-18 17:33

    Wingnut Senators are wringing their hands but they aren’t going to do anything to Drumpf. Too bad Drumpf ain’t Black or Hispanic.

  16. jerry 2018-07-18 17:41

    Comrade Dusty could not have been duped, that does not pass the smell test. Comrade Dusty got caught with a sex siren that would provide sex to get what she wanted. Wipe that smile off your face Comrade. Everyone knew and they didn’t care.

    “One catch, though, is that she wasn’t registered as a lobbyist, which is required by law. Butina is, thus far, charged with two crimes: violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act and conspiring with others to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act. And while prosecutions for FARA are rare—only seven took place between 1966 and 2016, for example—Wednesday’s filing also suggests that what she was engaged in went beyond informal off-books lobbying. For one, there’s the connection to Russian intelligence:
    “The defendant maintained contact information for individuals identified as employees of the Russian FSB, the Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii, the main successor agency to the USSR’s Committee of State Security, the KGB. For example, in the defendant’s electronic contact list, there was an email account listed at an FSB-associated domain. Another document uncovered during the execution of a search warrant contained a hand-written note, entitled “Maria’s ‘Russian Patriots In-Waiting’ Organization,” and asking “How to respond to FSB offer of employment?” … Additionally, FBI surveillance observed Butina in the company of a Russian diplomat in the weeks leading up to that official’s departure from the United States in March 2018. That Russian diplomat, with whom Butina was sharing a private meal, was suspected by the United States Government of being a Russian intelligence officer.”

    Comrade Dusty, step down already, your Russian arse is showing.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2018-07-18 17:50

    In May Trump fired his National Cyber Security Advisor along with his assistant with no plans to replace them.

  18. jerry 2018-07-18 18:08

    In 2015, Comrade trump goes all Russian and asks this sex kitten a question without her trying to ask a question. That is how it works in traitor land. The FBI was all over it though while Comrade Dusty was just infatuated with a fellow fair skinned red head. Yikes Comrade Dusty, ya gotta watch out for those kinds of spies.

    “An FBI agent who investigated Butina said in a court filing she tried to develop secret back channels with American politicians that could “penetrate the US national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian federation”.

    So then, why would we send an already compromised Comrade Dusty to do further damage to our Republic. Dude is outed and he must step aside for the good of this country, not Russia.

  19. Debbo 2018-07-18 19:32

    WaPo has an article about Buttina and SD, quoting Dusty a time or 2 and including a nice big quote from SD Dems. This is a part of it: “This is a catastrophic failure at the highest levels of their party organization, and, at minimum, raises serious questions about the SDGOP’s judgment and competence.”

  20. Debbo 2018-07-18 19:53

    BTW, what Buttina, Erickson and the SDGOP, perhaps inadvertently for the last, are doing is not “meddling,” which sounds like parents trying to get too involved in their grown children’s lives. It is information warfare, cyber and covert. It is a hot war minus shooting.

  21. Debbo 2018-07-18 20:02

    Since Tangerine Wankmaggot and GOP wont do anything to protect our election security, NSA and Cyber Command are. Per WaPo.

  22. Donald Pay 2018-07-18 20:20

    I’ve been puzzling out some things, which may or may not make any sense. I was reading a few things that looked like Tapio was involved with Erickson during the Thune-Daschle race. Fast-forward to the past two years and we see Tapio involved with the anti-Muslim hate groups affiliated with Christian right congregations. Butina and Erickson seemed to have tried to peddle the anti-Muslim hate strategy for the 2018 and 2012 elections around national righty circles, but got rebuffed. Apparently, the hate strategy that these national Republicans thought was more in line with “the base” involved ginning up the Mexican or Central American immigrant angle.

    Still, in South Dakota, where Erickson and Butina had a foothold and a business set up to launder money, the anti-Muslim angle seemed to have popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Virulent hate groups don’t just pop up in generally polite South Dakota, and the fact that South Dakota has a small Muslim community makes it all the more strange. But what if this Erickson and Bultina decided to pilot this hate strategy in South Dakota? That might explain how so many Republicans got caught up in the hate campaign. Could Russia (perhaps by laundering money through Erickson and Butina) have been funding this hate effort through anti-Muslim speakers, some in the South Dakota Christian right, some Republican politicians and some country Republican groups?

  23. Noelle 2018-07-18 20:48

    Having South Dakota ranked “7th” in the US for Corruption was bad enough……now this disgusting event with Russian Agent Maria Butina and So Dak Republican politician should bump us right up to Number “1”!!!! South Dakota should be proud to be the Most Corrupt State in the US!!! Arrrrgh!!

  24. leslie 2018-07-18 22:45

    Don…I agree a smell a link.

  25. jerry 2018-07-19 08:16

    Mr. Pay, there always has to be a petri dish to start the process. Where else but here, where, as you note, has a handful of Muslims. Start the process in an out of the way place and then watch how it all shakes out. Here is an example of the sex kitten Butina that enthralled the local politicos at the highest level. First, you recognize her as Comrade trump did…out of the blue, so to speak.

    “Butina will go down in history as perhaps the first person to publicly ask Trump what his policy toward Russian sanctions would be if he were President. In July, 2015, a few weeks after Trump declared his candidacy, he called on her—apparently at random—during an event in Las Vegas. “Do you want to continue the politics of sanctions that are damaging of both economies?” Butina asked. “I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin, O.K.?” Trump replied. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.” Later, according to Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book, “Russian Roulette,” the Trump campaign advisers Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus worried about this exchange. “How was it that this Russian woman happened to be in Las Vegas for that event? And how was it that Trump happened to call on her? And Trump’s response?” Isikoff and Corn wrote. “It was odd, Bannon thought, that Trump had a fully developed answer. Priebus agreed there was something strange about Butina. Whenever there were events held by conservative groups, she was always around, he told Bannon.”
    When the entire apparatus of South Dakota state government is all the same, you can get by with this kind of totalitarianism.

  26. David Hubbard 2018-07-19 08:58

    Cory, I am surprised there isn’t more outrage over my last paragraph. But this is one Paratrooper who takes his oath seriously. If the deification ever hits the rotary blades I will back my statement up with action.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-19 10:25

    Donald! The Tapio-Erickson connection is intriguing and plausible. In May 2003, Tapio declared a run against Daschle, but, according to Denise Ross, did so just to skirt campaign finance laws and make it easier for himself to issue criticisms about Daschle. That free-fire status could easily have fit into the Erickson/Rob Regier strategy to attack Daschle.

    And we can find some Tapio/Erickson overlap in the anti-Daschle campaign:

    Who else besides Tapio is associated with the Minnehaha County Young Republicans? That’s difficult to say, because they don’t list their names on their website. In fact, they don’t even identify themselves as the “Minnehaha County Young Republicans” on their website — they simply describe themelves as “born and raised South Dakota residents who are working class people who care about their South Dakotan neighbors and families.”

    Tapio was the group’s treasurer at one point, but apparently stepped down when he announced his potential senate candidacy. Others who reportedly belonged to the group are Rob Regier and Paul Erickson, two Republican activists known for their anti-Daschle campaining.

    According to article Kranz wrote for the Argus Leader, “Erickson says he served as an unpaid volunteer with the 2002 Victory office that was financed by the state Republican Party and assisted campaigns for Thune and other GOP candidates. He also organized the College Republicans who worked for Thune and other Republicans.” Kranz also wrote that Erickson “has spoken of his ties to Karl Rove, President Bush’s top adviser” [Greg Beato, “Daisy Chain,” Soundbitten, 2005.02.05]

  28. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-19 10:27

    Ballots before bullets, David. We need to watch Shantel closely, watch our county auditors closely, and even encourage widespread civil disobedience by taking photos of our ballots to counter any bogus counts.

  29. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-07-19 10:30

    On Tapio + Erickson: Sibby provides a quote from a Dave Kranz article from May 11, 2003:

    Tapio described himself as a philosophical Republican who is a fiscal and social conservative.

    His newspaper ad directs readers to a Web site – -where there was once a list of people involved in the project. In addition to Tapio’s name, listed as Neal T, others were Paul E., small businessman; Rob R., administrator; Kenyon G., administration; and Grant H., insurance. Last week, all names disappeared.

    Their mission statement: “We are an active group of lifelong South Dakotans that are a not-for-profit organization established to promote and defend principled candidates who support the Reagan vision of limited government, free markets, lower taxes, family values, economic growth and a strong national defense.”

    Daschle’s campaign has criticized the Web site as an extension of the effort to launch the Daschle Accountability Project forwarded Rob Regier of the Rushmore Policy Council and Paul Erickson. That plan got substantial media coverage around the United States in the last week, but Regier now says they do not plan to implement it [Dave Kranz, that Sioux Falls paper, 2003.05.11, in Steve Sibson, “Kranz and Hildebrand, Two Years Ago,” Sibby Online, 2005.05.31].

  30. David Hubbard 2018-07-19 11:33

    “Ballots before bullets, David. ”

    Agreed! Diplomacy and the rule of law before everything! We must exhaust every avenue we have before it comes to violence. However, a good soldier never prays for war but is always prepared for it.

  31. Debbo 2018-07-19 13:27

    The plot gets thicker and thicker. SDGOP, just how cozy were you with Buttina?

    It ain’t gonna be pretty. But those GOP hammer & sickle stickers hit the nail on the head.

  32. Judgealan 2018-07-19 18:07

    Hello my peeps back in SOUTH DAKOTA my home state-from Munich Germany I am writing– well well well things have gotten interesting – My old UNI USD hosted a russian spy speech and several GOP operatives and elected officials are involved with this same BUTINA of GQ RUSSIA sultry gun welding sex siren spy infamy…..I realize things are SLOW in sparsely populated coming to Jesus SODAK —– but COM ON ! the Honey Trap of all things?? it just goes to show you how NAIVE men are in south dakota
    a REQUEST i dont have any experience doing this WIKIPEDIA DUSTY JOHNSON and his organization of having a RUSSIAN SPY speak to CHILDREN at his republican youth camp ………could someone PLEASE EDIT HIS WIKIPEDIA PAGE to INCLUDE THAT INFORMATION??
    since he is a currently running for ELECTED OFFICE and is obviously supporting RUSSIAN SPYS to INDOCTRINATE SOUTH DAKOTAS CHILDREN with PLOTS against the american people.

  33. Marcia 2018-07-20 16:36

    If you haven’t already…check out Maria Butina’s Facebook page and see if you know any of her 4673 “friends” or if you recognize anyone in her photos…

  34. Marcia 2018-07-20 16:39

    Of course don’t forget to view Paul Erickson’s as well :)

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