Dozens of Armenian soldiers captured or missing after border attack

Military posts along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border (Photo: Office of the RA Ombudsman, November 16)

Armenian military officials say dozens of soldiers have been captured or have gone missing in newly launched border attacks by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces, the deadliest outbreak of fighting since the end of the 2020 Artsakh War. 

Armenia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) reports that Azeri forces began shelling Armenian positions along the eastern border on Tuesday afternoon. The fighting ceased after five hours by means of Russian mediation. The ceasefire was held as of 10:00AM local time on Wednesday morning, according to the Armenian MoD. 

Armenian officials say 13 soldiers were captured by Azeri forces and 24 have gone missing, their fate unknown as of yet. The MoD has only confirmed the death of one contract soldier, Meruzhan Arturi Harutyunyan (born 1991). The Armenian Armed Forces lost two military posts during the clashes. 

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported that seven of its soldiers were killed and 10 wounded. The Armenian MoD, however, said that Azerbaijan suffered 70 casualties. 

Azerbaijani officials state that the fighting took place in Kelbajar and Lachin, two districts ceded to Azerbaijan at the end of the 44-day war. Armenian officials report that the clashes took place near Sev Lake in the southernmost province of Syunik, where Azerbaijani soldiers crossed the border in May and have remained since then. Indeed, residents of border villages in Syunik could hear the sounds of shooting, according to the Human Rights Defender of Armenia Arman Tatoyan. 

The attacks follow several days of escalation of tensions. On November 12, Azerbaijan set up customs checkpoints along the Goris-Kapan road, restricting Armenian travel along the critical highway. Tatoyan reported that the checkpoints had isolated border communities in Syunik, whose residents rely on the road for communication and transportation. Several schools were forced to switch to online learning, because teachers and students could not commute to their classrooms. 

Azerbaijani checkpoint along the Goris-Kapan highway (Photo: Office of the RA Human Rights Defender, November 12)

Armenia ceded a 21-kilometer section of the Goris-Kapan highway to Azerbaijan in December 2020, a month after the end of the war in Artsakh. Azerbaijani officials had promised that Armenians would maintain unhindered access to the road, which until this week was the sole transport route connecting Syunik and the rest of the country. 

Armenian officials announced on Friday that work is underway to construct a new network of alternative routes. 

Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan had warned that Azerbaijan might conduct customs and passport control of Armenian citizens along the Goris-Kapan road. During a November 11 cabinet meeting, he said that Azerbaijan had threatened to set up checkpoints along the highway, unless Armenia accepted the construction of a “corridor” through southern Armenia. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly voiced his goal to establish an Azerbaijani-controlled land “corridor” that would connect Azerbaijan and its exclave Nakhichevan through Syunik. 

“It would have been possible to negotiate that there was no control over that section [of the road], but the price for that would have been corridor logic, which was unacceptable for us,” Pashinyan said

The incident took place amid an apparent breakdown of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, rumored to take place on the one-year anniversary of the November 9 ceasefire agreement. Armenian and Russian media outlets had reported that the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia would announce a new agreement addressing border demarcation and delimitation and the unblocking of regional transportation and communication links. 

Fighting along the border also escalated over the weekend. On November 15, Pashinyan confirmed that Azerbaijani troops had invaded Armenia along an undisclosed part of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. The PM also announced on Monday that he had relieved Arshak Karapetyan from the post of Minister of Defense and replaced him with his former deputy Suren Papikyan after analyzing Azerbaijan’s incursion over the weekend.

Pashinyan introduces new Defense Minister Suren Papikyan to top military officials (Photo: Office of the RA Prime Minister, November 15)

According to a statement released by the Security Council, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces accompanied by armored vehicles had attacked and surrounded four combat positions of the Armenian army along the eastern border at 1:00PM local time on Sunday. Azerbaijani forces pulled back following negotiations. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan (MoFA) denied that Azerbaijani soldiers had breached the border, stating that “Azerbaijani servicemen fulfill their duties in the sovereign territories of our country.” 

During an extraordinary session of the Security Council on Tuesday evening, Pashinyan called on the international community to condemn continued violations of the territorial integrity of Armenia by the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, which have occupied 41 square kilometers of Armenian territory since May. 

“There is no border dispute. There is aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia,” he said. “If the problem was the border dispute, Azerbaijan should have accepted our proposal of withdrawing forces simultaneously from the borderline between Soviet Armenia and Azerbaijan, deploying international observers along the borderline and launching the process of demarcation and delimitation of borders long ago.”

Secretary of the Security Council Armen Grigoryan has appealed to Russia to provide military and diplomatic assistance under mutual defense treaty obligations. “Currently, the Azerbaijani armed forces are in the sovereign territory of Armenia. This is an act of aggression. In 1997, Armenia and Russia agreed to help each other in such cases on a reciprocal basis. That was the reason why we petitioned Russia,” he told Kommersant daily. Grigoryan says that he has also initiated a formal written application for Russian assistance. 

During phone calls with his Armenian and Russian counterparts, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu called on “both sides to stop actions provoking escalation of the situation.” 

The MoFA of Armenia released a statement on November 16 calling on Russia, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the OSCE Minsk Group to demand the “unconditional and complete withdrawal of the Azerbaijani armed forces from the territory of the Republic of Armenia.” The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Armenia has “all the rights to repel the use of force against its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means,” under the UN Charter. 

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group also released a statement calling on “the sides to take concrete steps to deescalate the situation immediately,” underscoring the “need for a negotiated, comprehensive, and sustainable settlement of all remaining issues related to or resulting from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

The following day the European Union released a statement urging Armenia and Azerbaijan to “exercise utmost restraint, disengage their military forces on the ground and respect the commitments undertaken in the framework of the two trilateral agreements.” “The EU reiterate its commitment to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan to help overcome tensions and contribute to building a South Caucasus that is secure, stable, prosperous and at peace for the benefit of all people living in this region,” the statement reads

The Committee of Freedom Fighters of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) expressed its readiness to “stand by the Armenian soldier,” issuing a call on November 16 to volunteers who fought in their battalions in the 2020 Artsakh War to prepare for mobilization at any moment. 

The Armenia Alliance, a political coalition including the ARF, said that the resolution to the current crisis is the removal of the present leadership, in a statement blaming Pashinyan’s administration for bringing “casualties, territorial losses, division, chaos.”

“Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation should be followed by the consolidation of all capable forces, the formation of a new government and the provision of a policy for solving foreign and domestic problems,” the statement reads.  

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.

25 Comments

  1. “Armenia ceded a 21-kilometer section of the Goris-Kapan highway to Azerbaijan in December 2020″ …”the sole transport route connecting Syunik and the rest of the country”.

    Why is the this incompetent traitor loser not hanging from a noose as we speak? Before its too late?

  2. Isn’t it funny how Armenians incessantly badmouth Russia/Russians in peacetime, and then cry and beg for Russian help in wartime? Isn’t it funny how even when Armenia is defeated and defenseless in front of the enemy, Armenians still try to act tough and make demands?

    But fret not, Armenia is NOT being invaded. What’s going on is simply part of the process to convince the Armenian side to delineate and demarcate the borders between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Azeri side is basically saying, if you do not recognize our internationally recognized borders we will not recognize yours. It’s a pressure tactic to bring Armenians to the negotiations table and finally establish an official border between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This is something that the entire international community, including Russia, wants Armenia to do. Nevertheless, I reiterate: There will not be an invasion of Armenia as such a thing will trigger a world war.

    In any case, this is a situation we got ourselves into with our political incompetence and shortsightedness.

    Had we done way with our Western fetish and “complimentary politics” and fully embraced the Russian Bear, at least starting in the summer of 2008, we would not be where we are today. Had we invited Russian troops into Artsakh after 1994, we would not be where we are today. Not only did we not concentrate our lobbying efforts in Moscow, by pursuing “complimentary politics” and flooding Armenia with Western activists and NGOs, we did everything possible to alienate Russia. And our crowning achievement in this regard was putting into power a Western-financed, pro-Turkish regime in 2018. And here we are.

    And we still have dubious characters calling on Armenia to abandon Russia.

    No more feeling bad. No more shedding tears. No more providing help. Armenians need to suffer the consequences of their arrogance, jealousy, tribalism, shortsightedness, irrationality, political illiteracy, Russophobia, Western fetish, “democratic” choice and last but not least abandoning Artsakh. After the spring of 2018 – after June 20, 2021 in particular – we Armenians deserve everything coming to us.

    The fundamental problem with Armenia is its “democratically” elected leader, who is a Western-financed, pro-Turkish degenerate but one that still enjoys great popularity throughout Armenian society. Just couple of days before the latest fighting, the people’s choice sacked the acting defense minister and replaced him with one of his lemmings, someone with NO MILITARY EXPERIENCE. This begs the question: Was Nikol expecting this latest round of fighting? Moreover, Nikol once again did NOT mobilize the nation’s armed forces in face of Baku’s aggression, and instead called on Russia to intervene militarily knowing full well that the fighting on the border does not warrant a military intervention by Moscow? Was this just another attempt at blackmailing Russia? And the final, million dollar question: Why hasn’t there been a popular uprising against Nikol’s incompetent and destructive regime?

    Armenians are the main authors of the historic tragedy we have been witnessing.

    Just like how anti-Russian Elchibey led Azerbaijan to defeat in 1991, anti-Russian Saakashvili led Georgia to defeat in 2008 and the anti-Russian Ukrainian Maidan led Ukraine to defeat in 2014, Nikol and his Western/Turkish financed regime led Armenia to defeat in 2020. Amazingly, Armenians reelected Nikol in 2021. It is therefore no surprise that Russians have very little respect for Armenians these days, and even less for Nikol and his team. What Russians actually care about is strategic Armenia and their presence inside Armenia. This latest round of fighting on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan will serve to speed-up the border delineation/demarcation process (which Armenia desperately needs today) and it will increase Russia’s political and military role inside Armenia. Therefore, it’s a win-win for Moscow. There is a lot of political maneuvering going on between Russians, Azeris and Turks. And Armenia – a failed state run by Western-financed, pro-Turkish imbeciles – is simply caught in the middle.

    The cost of political illiteracy is high, and we have been paying it. It’s no one’s fault but ours. Also, allow me to remind the reader that there are no free lunches in politics. If we are incapable of nation-building and self-defense – in a complicated and violent place like the south Caucasus of all places – we don’t deserve independence. The quicker we therefore give the house keys to Ivan and Natasha (i.e. merge with Russia), the better it will be for Armenia in the long term. The last 30 years proved toxic. We turned a highly developed country into third world wasteland. The only things that developed during the last 30 years were Western financed NGOs, restaurants, casinos and strip clubs.

    Frankly, I no longer care about the plight of Armenians as much of the plight we Armenians suffer are of our making. What I remain concerned about and interested in preserving is Armenia…

    • The latest episode of Mother Russia offering Armenia at the sacrificial altar to their Turk gods seems to have made you guys confused enough that your Apparatchik propaganda is starting to suffer in quality.

      For example, already in your first sentence you make an untruthful claim right off the bat: “Isn’t it funny how Armenians incessantly badmouth Russia/Russians in peacetime”. Armenia hasn’t had peace since independence, Vlad, and that was actually by Russia’s choosing with its pro-Azeri, anti-Armenia 30 year policy in the South Caucasus. Additionally, before 2018 no significant or notable badmouthing took place in the region except in AZERBAIJAN, yet Russia gladly took the side of Azerbaijan. Note this was in BOTH WARS. Russia saved Azerbaijan from Armenia in the first war, and next helped Azerbaijan defeat Armenia in the second.

      The Armenian government is garbage. But the nation that claims to be Armenia’s “friend and ally” is also garbage. That is the only reason for Armenia’s suffering for the past century. Everything else you say is just noise. No rational person on this planet believes that “Armenia turned its back on Russia and therefore Russia is not at fault”. The exact reverse of that happened, Armenia started looking to the west due to Russia’s anti-Armenian, pro-Azeri policies in the South Caucasus. The Armenia-Russia “alliance” has always been a FRAUD.

    • Right your so sure of it. Its all just a Russian lesson by losing historical lands, missing soldiers and thousands of dead youth. Just a lesson to teach Armenia to never be independent. But don’t worry, no invasion. Its just pressure to decide on a final Soviet created artificial border as Armenia somehow “needs this”.. Sit back and relax and let Russia have it all is your answer?. Be clear: Azerbaijan, Turkey and Israel wants Syunik. They wont stop. Do you not get that? This would fulfill Turkish expansionist ideas and isolate Armenia and Iran at the same time. Its a win win for all of them.

      Russia historically has screwed Armenia at every turn. It was Soviet Russia that gave away Nachichivan and Artsakh to Asian invading Turks in the FIRST PLACE. But they never make mention of that fact. Why is that? It was Russia that watched the pogroms in Baku and Sumgate as Armenians were being thrown out windows and burned and raped in the streets. Were they “west leaning”? It was Russia that thwarted a gas pipeline from Iran which would have been a bonanza for Armenia. Was this a “Western Idea”? Russia wants to thwart an INDEPENDENT ARMENIA and that is all. It was Russia that demanded Armenia join the absolute useless CSTO. Its Russia that supposedly has security guarantees with its #1 Caucus Ally that basically just sits back and watches wile making every excuse why not to join the fight while Turks and Israelis on the other hand, make clear they are DIRECTLY on the Azeri side. Yet always an excuse for Russia.

      Further, I have no love for this current useless loser traitor in charge. He needs to step down immediately. But the idea that we would be better as a Russian servant state and that somehow this is Armenia’s fault is 100% insane. Russia is equally happy selling arms to Turkey and Azerbaijan and Armenia. It has no love for Armenia. NEVER DID and cant be fully trusted. Yes you cant ignore or turn Russia away completely. That’s real politics I get that. The Answer however is ARMENIAN UNITY. ONE world wide Armenia that works together as one. No more divisions. No more thieves stealing to enrich themselves as these are traitors in my eyes. A unified Armenia will strengthen its standing in its military, economy, technology and world wide politics. THAT’S THE ANSWER. Russia isn’t..

    • Yes, Pashinyan has lost credibility, a bumbling blunderer in an extreme way. As incompetent as he has been, I don’t believe that his blunders are intentional and traitorous; rather, he simply is a discredited man, due to the fiascos which transpired in the 2020 Karabakh War defeat. I’m right there with others who want to see Pashinyan deposed and removed, because a defeated leader easily slips into a state of impotence and basic uselessness.

    • correct , very right you speak ,and i am armenian ,and i do not understand why the armenians CURSE the russians ,and after kneeling for help.

  3. The Head of Geghamasar Hakob Avetyan stated yesterday that the Azerbaijani Armed Forces accumulated heavy military equipment on the border with Armenia, in the Vardenis-Geghamasar section. Azerbaijan is planning to reach Lake Sevan and make it the new “natural” border with Armenia. What’s being done about this?

  4. Azeris from what I understand are 10 km into Armenian territory…..and why Russia doesn’t help? Why they didn’t help us during the 2020 war? Because Putin hates Pashinyan due to the fact that he’s a Soros troll! “ iskander exploded by 10%” said pasha ……what a dangerous statement to make ….then he ask for help?

    • Russia doesn’t help because Russia wants Armenia without Armenians and is actually supporting Turkey and Azerbaijan while pretending to be Armenia’s “ally”.

      Also how can Putin hate Sorosakan Pashinyan when Putin is also a Sorosakan? Remember, every time Azeris and Turks attack Armenians, Putin and his “Mother Russia” Apparatchikistan chant to Armenians: “both sides must stop”. Now is there a more Sorosakan statement than that?

    • I agree, and well said. But, it should be pointed out that Putin’s attitude towards Armenia is myopic and selfish.

  5. There is definitely corruption on all fronts. The world’s powerful leader are not interested in the indigenous people or Christianity. The West doesn’t care who lives where! As long as they can go in and exploit the earth from its natural resources. Azerbaijan is connected to these corporates in the West Can you not see? We can’t afford to be told hold back fighting if we face the danger of being wiped out of the earth and our very ancient home land. No one is with Armenia as we have seen last year when Artsakh was attacked and the world called it “war”! And the media hardly spoke about it in the West. In fact German officials were bought by Azerbaijan!

  6. ” The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Armenia has “all the rights to repel the use of force against its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means,” under the UN Charter.
    Then do it, instead of talking about it. Every time the Turks attack and occupy our lands and kill our soldiers; we run to Russia and ask for cease fire, but the land is lost to Azeris; and no one is punished.
    As long as we keep the defeatist and cowardly mentality; and do not respond forcefully, and depend on Russia to resolve our border problem; we will be loosing land and people. The worst part is when our soldiers fall captive, then we are set for more concessions for their return.
    If Armenia and Diaspora rise on their feet and repel and throw the Azeris out with heavy losses inflicted upon them, and regain the Armenian lands then Russian and Iranian positions will change and this time Azeris will ask for cease fire and settle with concessions.
    We cannot depend on any other country for our salvation.
    It will be a fateful and catastrophic mistake to cede any corridor to Azeris.
    Armenia cannot be more encircled and isolated as that will be incompatible with statehood.
    I hope Armenians wake up from this stupor of defeat, and start fighting back, forcing Russia to abide by their military pact, and forging new military alliances with other countries.

  7. The Foreign Ministry emphasized that Armenia has “all the rights to repel the use of force against its territorial integrity and sovereignty by all means,” under the UN Charter.
    Then Do It.

  8. It is about time we realised that no other nation will risk their national interest to help us in a war. We need to rely on ourselves. We need to re-arm and defend ourselves. The diaspora can help by volunteers, technical advice, political action and cash to help purchase these very much needed weapons.

    • Absolutely. The diaspora can and has raised hundreds of millions and use them for weapons, training, politics, technology. However historically Armenians in Armenia look at the diaspora with scorn. How do yo fix this kind of stupid? They cry to everyone else who wont help them and ignore those that will.

  9. How is it that Azerbaijan remains a member of the Council of Europe, a human rights organization? Aren’t all members supposed to have free elections?

  10. At Concerned Armenian,
    Please, do not confuse us Armenians, with Pashinyan’s ‘ Aboriginal’ Armenians, the one’s who voted for that ex-convict. It was the Armenian Security Council Chief, Armen Grigoryan, Pashinyan’s # 3 side kick, who BEGGED for Russia’s help, about 4 days ago. He said, ” We appeal to Russia to protect Armenia’s territorial integrity within 1997 agreement”. So, don’t get those incompetent, inexperienced, Soros’ boot licking, socially misfit Cowards, confused with us Armenians. If Russia steps back, we could handle the current crisis without Putin’s assistance. We are known for our bravery. FYI, over 600,000 Armenians fought alongside the Red Army during WWII, their contribution to the victory of the Allied Powers was significant; three Generals and a Navy admiral. In addition, more than 2000 women from Armenia joined the Soviet Armed forces, all this back in 1939 when then ASSR ‘s population was lil’ under 1.5 million. So, don’t lecture us about how to fight and free our lands. In December 2004, Putin critized Rose and Orange revolution which took place in, the Republic of Georgia and Ukraine, respectively. He said, ” If you have permanent revolutions, you RISK PLUNGING Post-Soviet space into endless conflict “. Thus, this is the current turmoil Armenia is experiencing, compliments of SOROS’s boot licker, Pashinyan. If this is not bad enough, the back door deal that is taking place, between, Russia and Turkey, is adding fuel to the fire. For example, when Turkey pulled its forces from Afrin,Syria back in 2018, the agreement between Russians and the Turks was that ,Russia will let Turkey enter her backyard ,Transcaucases , in exchange for free and uninterrupted passage of Russian Black Sea Fleet, from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, through a narrow passage of the Dardanelles Strait. Turkey controls the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits, a vital passage for the Russians, should Turkey, a NATO Ally, one day decide to close the straits, it could screw up Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and hinder Kremlin’s power further abroad and disrupt Russia’s resuplying it’s forces in the Mediterranean and put their forces in danger. Therefore, these back door deals are hurting Armenia. Since, 1994 there was not a single word about so-called, DELINEATION and DEMARCATION, of the borders. Out of no where ,the Fake Republic of Azerbaijan , is demanding more lands. First and foremost, the Treaty of Kars, that was signed on October 23 of 1921, ESTABLISHED the borders of Armenia, Georgia, and Fake Republic of Azerbaijan, so, Case is closed. Now speaking of, demarcation and delineation of borders, how about we start ,delianeating and demarcating, Western Armenia, aka, Wilsonian Armenia, while we’re at it , how about the return of the Kars Province to Armenia, which was handed over to the Turks on a Silver Platter by Russia’s Lenin, after signing the Treaty of Moscow, aka, the Friendship Treaty. As a tribal and illiterate Armenian, YOU seem to have a great knowledge of history. I salute you.

  11. How much more territory do we have to secede, and how many more of our young and old soldiers and civilians will have to die or get captured and tortured by the enemies (Azeris and Turks) before we wake up and say enough is enough and begin to defend ourselves by ourselves. Wake up. There is no nation on earth that will jeopardize their own national interest and sacrifice their children for the sake of Armenia. As long as we keep on cowing down and bending our knees asking for help from this and that nation we will be trampled and lost. There is always the talk of “we will defend ourselves”, well, what is stopping us? Have we forgotten the battle of Sardarbad? Have we become so week, so demoralized? Wake up Armenians and stand on your feet. (“Zartir vortyak, baderazmi poghen henchets”).

  12. How can we be so weak that every few days we allow Azeris to kill and capture our soldiers?! Are they asleep on duty, for goodness sake? No wonder how emboldened the enemy is to ambush and trespass at will. Who has trained our army commanders and soldiers to be so hopeless? Then let’s not be surprised why we get no support from big nations. You only gain friends when you show grit not weakness.

  13. Why are Armenians complaining that no one came to Armenia’s help? Armenia’s only ally, Russia, DID come to Armenia’s aid. That said, it’s the Armenian government that needs to first and foremost come to Armenia’s help, not anybody else.

    Nevertheless, Russia is the ONLY nation on earth helping Armenia and it’s doing so despite the Western and Turkish funded professional Russophobes that are in power in Yerevan today. Maybe this is news for you but the latest round of fighting stopped when Moscow rushed units from its 102nd Base in Armenia to where the fighting was occurring. Nikol’s government on the other hand did not nothing. They did not even order the mobilization of Armenia’s armed forced when the fighting began. There are credible reports that his officials even ordered Armenian troops to unconditionally release several Azeri soldiers they had captured during the fighting – even though scores of Armenians are thought to have been taken prisoner by the Azeris. Moreover, a day before the fighting started Nikol’s government suddenly dismissed the acting defense minister and replaced him with a close political ally with NO military experience. Isn’t it suspicious? In any case, right now there are Russian troops risking their lives holding the line between Armenians and Azeris. And some of you are still complaining? Would any of you here preferred it if Russians did not stop the fighting? Will some of you finally understand that Nikol’s regime is the ONLY problem Armenia is facing today? Is what Moscow doing for Armenia not enough for your exquisite tastes? Besides, what exactly do you want Russians to do, go to war against Baku and Ankara – and do so for a Western funded government that is quite openly in bed with Baku and Ankara? Have any of you given any of this a thought?

  14. 30 years they have had to build up the country and its army with all the funding received.

    Instead of flourishing, people have left, economy in shambles and corupt leaders elected.

    A country surrounded by enemies yet has done very little to defend themselves. Look at neighbouring Georgia and the way it has built itself.

    Either Russia is preventing Armenia to stand on its own or it is incapable of doing so now.

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