The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam 575

As recently as 2016 Dr Robin Black, Head of the Detection Laboratory at the UK’s only chemical weapons facility at Porton Down, a former colleague of Dr David Kelly, published in an extremely prestigious scientific journal that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown.

In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. (Black, 2016)

Robin Black. (2016) Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry

Yet now, the British Government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.

The world’s international chemical weapons experts share Dr Black’s opinion. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a UN body based in the Hague. In 2013 this was the report of its Scientific Advisory Board, which included US, French, German and Russian government representatives and on which Dr Black was the UK representative:

[The SAB] emphasised that the definition of toxic chemicals in the Convention would cover all potential candidate chemicals that might be utilised as chemical weapons. Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks”. (OPCW, 2013)

OPCW: Report of the Scientific Advisory Board on developments in science and technology for the Third Review Conference 27 March 2013

Indeed the OPCW was so sceptical of the viability of “novichoks” that it decided – with US and UK agreement – not to add them nor their alleged precursors to its banned list. In short, the scientific community broadly accepts Mirzayanov was working on “novichoks” but doubts he succeeded.

Given that the OPCW has taken the view the evidence for the existence of “Novichoks” is dubious, if the UK actually has a sample of one it is extremely important the UK presents that sample to the OPCW. Indeed the UK has a binding treaty obligation to present that sample to OPCW. Russa has – unreported by the corporate media – entered a demand at the OPCW that Britain submit a sample of the Salisbury material for international analysis.

Yet Britain refuses to submit it to the OPCW.


A second part of May’s accusation is that “Novichoks” could only be made in certain military installations. But that is also demonstrably untrue. If they exist at all, Novichoks were allegedly designed to be able to be made at bench level in any commercial chemical facility – that was a major point of them. The only real evidence for the existence of Novichoks was the testimony of the ex-Soviet scientist Mizayanov. And this is what Mirzayanov actually wrote.

One should be mindful that the chemical components or precursors of A-232 or its binary version novichok-5 are ordinary organophosphates that can be made at commercial chemical companies that manufacture such products as fertilizers and pesticides.

Vil S. Mirzayanov, “Dismantling the Soviet/Russian Chemical Weapons Complex: An Insider’s View,” in Amy E. Smithson, Dr. Vil S. Mirzayanov, Gen Roland Lajoie, and Michael Krepon, Chemical Weapons Disarmament in Russia: Problems and Prospects, Stimson Report No. 17, October 1995, p. 21.

It is a scientific impossibility for Porton Down to have been able to test for Russian novichoks if they have never possessed a Russian sample to compare them to. They can analyse a sample as conforming to a Mirzayanov formula, but as he published those to the world twenty years ago, that is no proof of Russian origin. If Porton Down can synthesise it, so can many others, not just the Russians.

And finally – Mirzayanov is an Uzbek name and the novichok programme, assuming it existed, was in the Soviet Union but far away from modern Russia, at Nukus in modern Uzbekistan. I have visited the Nukus chemical weapons site myself. It was dismantled and made safe and all the stocks destroyed and the equipment removed by the American government, as I recall finishing while I was Ambassador there. There has in fact never been any evidence that any “novichok” ever existed in Russia itself.

To summarise:

1) Porton Down has acknowledged in publications it has never seen any Russian “novichoks”. The UK government has absolutely no “fingerprint” information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.
2) Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.
3) The UK is refusing to provide a sample to the OPCW.
4) “Novichoks” were specifically designed to be able to be manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench. The Americans dismantled and studied the facility that allegedly developed them. It is completely untrue only the Russians could make them, if anybody can.
5) The “Novichok” programme was in Uzbekistan not in Russia. Its legacy was inherited by the Americans during their alliance with Karimov, not by the Russians.

With a great many thanks to sources who cannot be named at this moment.

Please Also Read My follow-up to this article: “Bothered by Midgies”

575 thoughts on “The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam

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  • Sharp Ears

    Little Weed, aka the Defence Secretary, will make his first major speech today. He follows on from the even more ridiculous and sex pest, Michael Fallon, and the Pantomime Dame, Hammond.

    He will announce (they always tell us in advance to ensure we get the message) that Porton Down will have an extra £48m in funding and that ‘thousands of troops will be vaccinated against anthrax’. Wow.

  • John

    What a coincident, Porton Down being so close, what a Chance for them to get more money!

  • Allen

    Nothing to Surprise anyone here this crap has been going on far too long ⚓️Well Said Craig Murray Peace for all Get Tid of the Tyrants from Office!

  • SA

    Now Jeremy Corbyn is being demonised for asking basic questions, the Official Government media, the BBC the state broadcaster is leading the demonisation.

    • giyane


      As a Privy Counsellor he has been fed exactly the same cow’s tits as Mrs May. Difference is, poetic justice, Jeremy’s caution when the lie is exposed, will win him the next election.
      Down in a deep dark ditch sat an old cow , chewing a beanstalk.
      Out of the ditch came forth harmonious melody.
      ( Essential memo to writers of odes in Iambic pentameters.)
      Fine prime minister, capable anything, should’ve checked the vodka for traces of poison.
      Damage limitation after exposure. Bye bye Mrs May gone.

      Places to go things to do. promise I’ll come back and somewhat loudly sweep the string when these disgusting illegal warmongering Tories need their urns scattering. Long live Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Putin.

      • David Lester

        I can’t disagree with the bulk of your comment, but disagree entirely with your endorsement of Putin. He is still a gangster in my view.

    • What's going on?

      It seems to me that Corbyn is only trying to follow the convention on prohibition of chemical weapons.

  • Stonky

    It really isn’t very complicated. Russia has had the temerity to beat the US, the UK, Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and a number of other influential countries in a proxy war in Syria. Russia needs to be punished for its cheek.

    • giyane


      Exacty. But he who laughs last, laughs loudest, Russia is going to take revenge very soon. Then Mrs May can retire to her Sonning gipsy caravan like her predecessor whose crystal ball got its predictions wrong.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    1. The OPCW has been formally informed of the incident. There is nothing to indicate that formal action will not follow, or that the UK will not provide samples if required to OPCW. This is not the same as providing samples to Russia, as Russia insolently demands. It remains to be seen how eager Russia is for the OPCW or anyone else to sniff round its own facilities…

    2. If you tried to make any nerve agent ‘on any scientific bench’ (whatever that means – in research terms there is no standard bench), you would die PDQ.

    3. Neat bit of obfuscation on the detection problem. (a) I’ve looked at the Mirzayanov structures, and, like all nerve agents so far, they are pretty simple molecules, rather ingeniously designed to cause metabolic destruction beyond what a classical organophosphate agent offers. No problem analysing them from scratch, subject to H&S requirements, of course.

    4. Yes, we only have Mirzayanov’s word for it; but would you like to take a small bet that the Americans haven’t confirmed it, from samples taken from Nukus? Which at the time of the novichok programme was most definitely IN the Soviet Union, albeit, and for guessable reasons, very far away from Moscow. Shameful of them not to tell you, if so, but then they tell very few people this kind of thing. It’s called ‘need to know’. BUT…

    5. According to an OPCW report, Russia itself reported that development and production of the agents was at Shikhany* – not in Uzbekistan at all. Seems likely to me. Nukus was a test facility, not the programme’s sole base.

    Still, well done, Craig. The Order of Putin will be in the post. I look forward to more pro-Moscow emissions from you, if not for the support of what by any rational definition is now a fascist dictatorship and police state, then for their unintentional humour.

    *or Porton Downski, in effect

    • giyane

      ” insolently ”

      If Russia exposes UK involvement in Syria supporting Islamist terrorism like they exposed Erdogans far as the horizon line of oil tankers from Daesh oilfields, then Mrs May and the eat your own vomit Tory party, will have to start eating, if not vomit, very very humble pie indeed. Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells and the man on the Clapham omnibus don’t want a prime minister who has been proven in the wrong.

    • Stonky

      “This is not the same as providing samples to Russia, as Russia insolently demands…”

      This is what Article 9 of the CWC actually states (my emphasis):

      “States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, THROUGH EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION and consultations among themselves…
      “A State Party which receives a request from another State Party… shall provide… as soon as possible, BUT IN ANY CASE NOT LATER THAN TEN DAYS after the request…”

      1. Russia is entitled to ten days to respond to the UK accusations, not the 24-hour deadline arbitrarily imposed by the UK.
      2. How on earth is Russia supposed to respond to the UK accusations at all – ever – without access to any of the information on which the accusations are based?
      3. Are you a professional stupid person, or merely a very gifted amateur?

      • Ba'al Zevul

        Thank you, Stonky. I am a very gifted amateur. And my late father was on a Soviet death list, like others freed from from German PoW camps about to be overrun by the Soviets, and heading in the ‘wrong’ direction. Like all too many Russian PoW’s branded by Stalin as being contaminated by having been in German hands ( albeit starved, and treated considerably worse than farm animals). Like many of the citizens of the countries overrun first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets.

        The demand was insolently made, in terms designed to be offensive, whatever its legality. And if the situation were reversed, do you think Russia would comply? Really?

        • PetrGrozny


          The offensiveness is neither here nor there. To Russians Teresa May was offensive morphing ‘highly likely’ into ‘only two plausible explanations’ and Russia retains the capacity to produce this to ‘Russian-produced’.

        • giyane

          Very sorry to hear your personal story about your father. You are the very person to empathise with the victims of the Syrian war on either side, those who have been imprisoned by Assad and those who have been imprisoned by Al Qaida as human shields.
          It was USUKIS that initiated WAR and they will be held to account for the consequences of WAR, even if they happen to be posh Anglo-Saxon female Christians from the home counties, which their disgusting exceptionalism leads them to think themselves exempt from doing any wrong.

          • Greg

            The personal story is a complete fiction either he or his father made up for one reason or another. It’s the first instance of such a story I’ve heard in all my life. I don’t even want to speculate as to why someone would concoct such a story, especially if it was the father.

    • Loony

      What you write seems plausible.

      I presume that you find the idea of relying on gas supplied by a “a fascist dictatorship, and police state” to be repugnant and indefensible. No doubt you will be vociferous in your demands that the gas taps are turned off. If the Germans don’t agree then by definition they will be supplying financial support to a fascist dictatorship – given their history they would appear to be treading on very thin ice so to speak. Obviously in such circumstances the morally pure British would have no choice other than to sever all links with Germany and specifically with German manufactured products.

      What ya gonna do? The answer is nothing, so what difference does any of this make?

      • fred

        Which is why the incident occurred when it occurred.

        This wasn’t an opportunistic crime, it was most carefully planned and timed to take place when all of Europe was experiencing the coldest weather for several years and was highly dependent on Russian gas.

        • J Galt

          Well shouldn’t they have done it in November at the start of winter – Spring is just round the corner?

          And Germany is much more dependent on Russian Gas than the UK – shouldn’t this have been directed against Germany by your logic?

          • fred

            Directed against Germany? I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

            Skripal was punished because he was a traitor, to deter others from becoming traitors.

            The act was timed for when Europe was depending on Russian gas, no time to make other arrangements, if Russia cuts off the gas people freeze.

            It’s simple enough, no need to make it complicated.

    • Buna

      “I’ve looked at the Mirzayanov structures, and, like all nerve agents so far, they are pretty simple molecules, rather ingeniously designed to cause metabolic destruction beyond what a classical organophosphate agent offers.”

      A revolutionäry method. Simply “look at the structures” and you’ll know what a chemical does in the body. No further testing required.

    • A Biochemist writes

      “Neat bit of obfuscation on the detection problem. (a) I’ve looked at the Mirzayanov structures, and, like all nerve agents so far, they are pretty simple molecules, rather ingeniously designed to cause metabolic destruction beyond what a classical organophosphate agent offers. No problem analysing them from scratch, subject to H&S requirements, of course.”
      As a PhD biochemist, formerly a professor in that subject, I can confidently say that what is written above is what in Scotland we term ‘pure shite’.
      In scientific terms it is utterly ignorant nonsense. This class of agent has well known activities at synapses – they have no direct actions on metabolism (other than preventing catabolism of AcCh) and in no sense are they ‘Designed to cause metabolic destruction” – a phrase which in itself is scientifically meaningless.
      And whist the substances may appear “simple” their safe production, deployment and utilisation is far from that. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of synthetic chemistry will know that, in terms of complexity and difficulty of synthesis, molecular size is irrelevant. Moreover, since we do not know precisely what the actual substance was – merely its structural archetype schematic, neither does Mr Zevul – unless he has inside information from security sources, foreign or domestic.
      Even then, his questionable grasp of the science involved would render the transfer of that information somewhat esoteric.

  • Sergio

    Partly true, but R&D of Novichok was not in Uzbekistan, but in Russia, near Saratov. That is public information and was also described by Mirzoyanov. And he is not Uzbek, he is Tatarian.

    • Laguerre

      Mirzoyanov has lived in a $1 million house in New jersey for 20 years now. Difficult to imagine a less reliable witness.

  • Elton Hornblow

    I am surprise that only four members of the Security Council, Britain, France, the US and Russia, all supporters of the UK view, were quoted in mainstream media today. Did China say anything, or Brazil, Peru, Sweden, Poland etc.

    • Ba'al Zevul

      If you were familiar with the dependence of UK media on press agencies, you would not be surprised at all. However, it was culpable of them not to look at Tass:

      Beijing hopes for an unbiased independent investigation of the case over the poisoning of the former colonel of Russian military intelligence service, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and trusts that it will operate solid facts, the Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Ma Zhaoxu said on Wednesday at a meeting of the UN Security Council.

      He also said China hoped the investigation would comply with the norms of international law.

      Ambassador Ma also expressed the hope the parties concerned would have an ability to settle the situation.

      You are presumably capable of using Google to find more ‘don’t involve us in this can of worms, ffs’ reponses.

  • K

    There is a typo in your summary, Craig.

    “Until now, neither Porton Down nor the world’s experts at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were convinced “Novichoks” even exist.”

    Should read as: “Prohibition” – not “Prevention”.

  • Sharp Ears

    Meanwhile, the BBC has moved on to Syria, via the Victoria Derbyshire programme. She has various Syrian guests in the studio and others online. The demonization of President Assad continues. BBC 2 and the ‘News’ Channel. From the start following a short film explaining it all to the viewers who must be told the facts!

    She adopted that wearied tone to indicate her deep sympathy for the Syrian people …how much longer can this brutality go on…etc

    • Sharp Ears

      Ref Salisbury and the Russian expulsions, she followed on with Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, Mark Lyall-Grant, Oliver Miles and Chris Bryant, the latter criticizing Jeremy Corbyn again.

      Same old. Same old. Does the BBC think we are stupid?

      @ 10.10 am in inc Nikki Haley at the UN

  • Harry Law

    The speed with which the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary jumped on this incident to blame Russia reminds me of the exchange between Karl Malden [the Sheriff] and Marlon Brando [the accused] in that fine 1961 film ‘One-Eyed Jacks’ Karl Malden [T May] ” We are going to give you a fair trial, then we are going to hang you’.

  • Elizabeth

    Reminds me of the famous “Wood Green Ricin Plot”, where no actual ricin was found (but this wasn’t revealed for three years due to ‘reporting restrictions’).

  • Jonathan Lincoln Brown

    Thank you for exposing this.

    A true story from the collapse of the Soviet Union and the manufacturers of Semtex. A senior British policeman wrote the definitive (supposedly) manual on Semtex. In it he claimed that the stripe along the Semtex denoted the explosive power strength of the Semtex. A friend of mine who was an explosives expert visited the Semtex plant and talked at great length with the staff. The variations in the colour of the stripe along blocks of Semtex was dependent upon the available felt tip markers at the nearby stationery store. The British government did not send an explosives expert to visit the SEmtex plant, it sent an accountant with the request to include scent that dogs could detect. All a bit sad when it was the scent free Semtex that was being used by terrorists.

    There used to be a small chemical weapons facility at Shrivenham military college, that I did visit a few times. I developed, with others, a specialist acrylic resin to seal porous building surfaces against chemical and biological agents that can be retained by porous materials for up to three weeks after contamination. The water based acrylic resin could penetrate voids down to one micron – a human hair is around 25 microns thick. From that scant experience of chemical weapons, this story has always struck me as highly suspect..

  • P

    If a bunch of nutters could syththesise VX nerve agent and Sarin in very large quantities then so can terrorists as proven by the Japanese incident.

    Dr David Kelly explained (in the last sentence of his last interview (in his last month on this earth)) that there is no difference between offensive and defensive research when it comes to chem / bio weapons, it’s the intent that’s important.

    The US developed binary chemical nerve agent wmd for offensive purposes and weaponised it into artillary shells (M687) (with intent ti kill on a mass scale). The US had stockpiles of this weapon when it was demonising Iraq and knowingly making false claims that Saddam had Chemical WMD.

    The US had them, the US knew Saddam did not have them. The US and UK lied about Iraq’s (non existant) chemical weapons in order to destroy the country and take control of the oil.

    The UK and US has form for lying about Chemical weapons, Russia has not.

    If we are to go to war on a lie again let us at least be clear that it is a lie and the politicians pushing for the conflict (paid for by the taxpayer) are deliberately lying or talking (shrieking) out of ignorance / stupidity.

    Craig Murray has assisted these liars by beefing up his reposte with non-facts, exaggerations, false assertions and bad guesses.

    And its to be wondered why. The truth is available, plain clear, maybe not that simple but to muddy the picture with further falsehoods and inexactitudes only assists the push for war.

    You have not been helpful Mr Murray

  • drygrange bull

    wag the dog, what a good movie. Glad you are still here to provide some truths, and giving us a alternative view. Unlike the mainstream media and the dead tree scrolls owned by billionaires with there own goals…..keep up the good work.

  • leeroy

    What an idiot.

    This whole thing was conclusively and absolutely debunked by Clyde Davis – an actual chemist.

  • Xavi

    Good piece, thanks for this. It also still remains far from self-evident how Moscow would benefit by thia attack, with elections this weekend and with NATO ramping up a confrontation with Russia over their failed war for regime change in Syria.. On the other hand, the Salisbury attack hands Putin’s enemies an ideal diplomatic and political weapon to use against him. It also allows them to place enormous pressure on the French, Germans and Italians, who are calling for a European military policy independent from the United States and closer ties to Russia.

    The UK govt and its loyal opposition are basing their allegations entirely on the shifting analyses of the Porton Down biochemical warfare facility, located coincidentally only 10 miles from Salisbury. But how can Porton Down be considered a reliable source? This institution has a long record of illegal or covert testing of biological and chemical weapons on British citizens. (Including the 1942 contamination with anthrax spores of Gruinard Island, which the British government was compelled to decontaminate in 1986; the unlawful death of Ronald Maddison in 1953 during trials of sarin gas on British servicemen; and the 1963-1975 spraying of biological weapons in Lyme Bay. The British government paid out 3 millions pounds to victims of such tests in 2008, without admitting liability).

    In a sane polity – one that wished to avoid nuclear annihilation – there would be sober calls in parliament for a full, objective international public inquiry to establish the truth of what took place. Sadly the UK polity is still characterized by reckless deceivers, anxious to distract from Brexit on its Tory side and to discredit their leader on the Labour side, and both eager to coralle Moscow back under the sway of their Washington master.

  • David Richardson

    The remote site of Jaslyk in north western Qaraqalpaqstan is hidden in the middle of the barren Ustyurt desert plateau. It is now a high security prison for Uzbekistan’s political prisoners but in the past it was a testing station for the highly secret Soviet chemical weapons research institute based in the capital of No’kis.

    During the 1960’s and 70’s, the USSR secretly built up the largest arsenal of chemical weapons on the planet. Formal negotiations on a chemical weapons ban only started in 1980 and were to last until 1992. During the early 1980’s the Soviet military began work on a new type of highly lethal binary chemical weapon called Novichok, meaning “newbie”, much of the development directed from No’kis.

    This new gas was purported to be five to eight times more toxic than VX nerve gas. Tests were conducted over an enormous area of the Ustyurt, from east of Jaslyk to the centre and north of the plateau, under the pretext of a project to develop smoke bombs. At one time 300 scientists were involved in the programme.

    Many thousands of saiga and other animals were recklessly gassed as a result of these tests. The late Professor Yagodin who spent a long time working on archaeological sites on the Ustyurt told us how he occasionally came across huge herds of saiga deer that had been mysteriously killed by no obvious means. It is possible that one of these tests was responsible for the sudden death of half a million saiga deer on the northern Ustyurt in May 1988.

  • Harry Law

    Mahatma Gandhi was supposedly a pacifist, however that is not quite true, his philosophy was, if your opponent tries to humiliate you, then strike back, and strike back hard, [he despised cowards]. The Russians should strike back hard. Personally I would expel most British Diplomats from Russia, and strip them down to their underwear before they boarded the plane.

  • Rex T

    “With a great many thanks to sources who cannot be named at this moment.” – This sentence should be at the top.

  • Kevin Mullins

    Your contribution to this whole debate has been the only one that makes any sense

  • Etienne

    Novichok was tested at a military testing base in Uzbekistan, but that is not where it was developed. It was developed at the Shikhany Institute in Volsk, and it was there that it was first tested too so point 5 is simply wrong.

    Novichok agents are technically not banned by the CWC because they are said to be benign when kept separate, only becomng lethal when combined, thus they circumvent the CWC banned list because the “common ingredients” on their own are harmless.

    We do not have just Mirzayanov’s word. Vladimir Uglev also spoke out to corroborate Mirzayanov’s allegations, as did Lev Fedorov.

  • Ian

    Spot the Tankie.
    Why would you find it odd that a technological military establishment might have knowledge about nerve gas weapons that hasn’t been published in open research?

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    So the UK either makes Putin the fallguy for the Salisbury incident or allows another country a free ride to do it while depending on Russian energy sources to keep warm. This is the height of idiocy, as the country will learn by next week with the frigid conditions returning. It will kill more citizens than the ‘false flag’ incident.

    • Shatnersrug

      Trow, they really don’t care, 180,000 have died as a result of unfair benefit sanction – most overruled at tribunal but too late. The conservatives do not know what they are doing but have the arrogance of their class. Historically a government this weak would fall but as no Media wish to a a Corbyn government, on we go, bungle after bungle, idiocy after idiocy.

      How you’re doing ok, trow

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        Thanks, Shatnersrug.

        Okay, and hope you are too. Going to the dentist today in the hope of ending my dental problems,and the Veterans Administration is still trying to determine if I have lung cancer, a untreatable kind of pneumonia, or just a bad character. I go with the last as the price for having my lovely dog, Domino.

      • Trowbridge H. Ford

        The Tories have always adhered more to Malthus’s Principles of Population not being followed by the poor than fear if becoming Marxists.

  • Julia

    Compulsive reading – this article should be circulated as widely as possible – our Govt is playing yet more tricks with the British public. We are tired of being deceived & taken into unnecessary wars.

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