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Novak Djokovic: Star pictured hugging children at PR event the day after his ‘positive PCR test’

Questions have been raised about the authenticity of Novak Djokovic’s positive Covid test on December 16, as multiple pictures taken around that date show the maskless tennis star mixing as normal in his native Serbia.

A maskless Djokovic was pictured as a panelist at an indoor discussion for his charity foundation, and he shared pictures on Instagram of him receiving a stamp made in his honour the day after he allegedly tested positive for Covid.

In further damning pictures allegedly taken on December 17, the World No. 1 took part in an open PR event and was pictured hugging children at an award ceremony at the Tennis Association of Belgrade’s event. It is unclear whether he knew he had Covid when the photographs were taken.

The Serbian’s lawyers have since claimed the Australian government gave the tennis star a written vaccine exemption because he contracted the disease on December 16 – the same day he was pictured mixing with dozens of maskless people.

In a further blow to the tennis star’s claims, it was also alleged that his positive PCR test result on December 16 would have been to late to register with Tennis Australia’s own exemption process deadline – which had already expired on December 10.

According to the governing body’s own documents, the last date to apply for medical exemption for the Australian Open had been nearly a week earlier. However, it is not clear when Djokovic received the result of the positive PCR test.

Earlier today, Czech tennis star Renata Voráčová, 38, who was held in detention alongside Djokovic, had her visa ripped up by Border Force and was deported from Australia on a flight to Dubai after not appealing the decision to detain her. 

Saturday marked the latest twist in Djokovic’s Covid saga, after the World No. 1 was held at an immigration facility in Melbourne after his visa was cancelled on Wednesday following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured to travel to the first tennis major of the year.

But his legal team now claim that he was in fact granted a vaccine exemption from the Australian government and Tennis Australia to enter the country because he contracted Covid-19 last month.  

On December 16, a maskless Novak Djokovic shared a picture of himself speaking at a panel for the Novak Djokovic Foundation at the Novak Tennis Centre in Dorćol, Serbia. HIs lawyers now claim he received his positive PCR result that same day

On December 17, Djokovic (pictured centre at the back) posed with dozens of children at a PR event with the Tennis Association of Belgrade, the day after the purported positive PCR test

On December 17, Djokovic (pictured centre at the back) posed with dozens of children at a PR event with the Tennis Association of Belgrade, the day after the purported positive PCR test

Djokovic pictured on December 17

Djokovic pictured on December 17

December 17: The maskless tennis World No. 1 posed for pictures with the children in Serbia at the public PR event

And on December 16, the World No. 1 later shared a picture of himself receiving an honourary stamp in Serbia on Instagram

And on December 16, the World No. 1 later shared a picture of himself receiving an honourary stamp in Serbia on Instagram

38-year-old Renata Voracova, a Czech tennis player, was filmed at the window of a Melbourne immigration detention hotel after also having her visa rejected by Australian border guards. She has since been deported from Australia

38-year-old Renata Voracova, a Czech tennis player, was filmed at the window of a Melbourne immigration detention hotel after also having her visa rejected by Australian border guards. She has since been deported from Australia

Novak Djokovic requested a personal chef and access to a tennis court while staying in a Melbourne hotel before his demands were rejected by Australian Border Force

Novak Djokovic requested a personal chef and access to a tennis court while staying in a Melbourne hotel before his demands were rejected by Australian Border Force

The World No. 1 has been told he will receive no special treatment as he remains in immigration custody at the $109-a-night Park Hotel in Carlton

The World No. 1 has been told he will receive no special treatment as he remains in immigration custody at the $109-a-night Park Hotel in Carlton

Czech tennis ace, 38, is DEPORTED from Australia after she was detained alongside Djokovic

A Czech tennis star has been deported from Australia after she was detained alongside Men’s World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

Renata Voráčová, 38, had her her visa ripped up after being deemed in violation of visa rules and was detained by border force in Melbourne on Thursday.

Ms Voráčová was deported from Australia after being sent on a flight to Dubai on Saturday evening. 

The Czech foreign ministry said Ms Voracova was detained alongside Djokovic but will leave the country instead of appealing the decision

The Czech foreign ministry said Ms Voracova was detained alongside Djokovic but will leave the country instead of appealing the decision

The doubles specialist, who played in a warm-up tournament in Australia this week, was instructed to leave the country on Friday. She did not contest the ruling. 

‘We can confirm that Czech tennis player Renata Voracova is in the same detention as Djokovic, together with several other players,’ the Czech Foreign Ministry said.

‘We submitted through our embassy in Canberra a protest note and are asking for an explanation of the situation. 

‘However, Renata Voracova decided to drop out of the tournament due to limited possibilities for training and to leave Australia.’

It comes after Djokovic’s demands for a personal chef in the $109-a-night Park Hotel in Carlton were rejected as he was told he would receive no special treatment as he awaits his court date on Monday.

In court documents published on Saturday, Djokovic’s lawyers claimed the Serbian recorded a positive test on December 16, and has ‘not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of Covid-19 in the last 72 hours’.

The filing said he had written clearance from Australia’s immigration department before travelling to the country with a medical exemption from its vaccination rules.

On January 1, the sports star received a ‘a document from the Department of Home Affairs (which) told Djokovic that his ‘responses indicate(d) that (he met) the requirements for a quarantine-free arrival into Australia’, the documents added.

As well as written clearance from the Australian government, his lawyers claimed that Tennis Australia granted him a ‘medical exemption from Covid vaccination’ on December 30, on the basis he had recently recovered from the virus.

Anti-vaxx Djokovic has refused to reveal how many, if any, Covid vaccinations he has received.

Despite claims that he was given written clearance to enter Australia, 20-time grand slam winner’s visa was cancelled after at least six hours of heated discussions with Border Force.

He is waiting in detention to fight the decision in court on Monday, after he was deemed not to have met outlined Australian government visa requirements to enter the country after flying in from Dubai.

Leaked documents from Tennis Australia said unvaccinated players were able to apply for a temporary medical exemption if they had contracted Covid-19 in the past six months. 

A letter was sent by Tennis Australia on December 7 to the Association of Tennis Professionals and then passed onto players, the Herald Sun reported. 

The document said unvaccinated players needed to prove they’d had the virus in the time since July 31 in order to enter the country.

But Tennis Australia had been notified by the Federal Government in November that prior infections would not allow the unvaccinated into the country.

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out in the Park Hotel alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers, who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the ‘Alternative Place of Detention’.

Maggot-riddled food, mouldy bread, fires, Covid outbreaks and bugs in rooms are among the complaints made by some of the guests.

Djokovic’s demands for a personal chef while in detention have been rejected, as he was told he will receive no special treatment while he remains in immigration custody.

He had also asked to be transferred to a rented apartment with a tennis court so he could train and remain in top shape ahead of the Australian Open with the tournament set to begin in a little over a week on January 17.

Djokovic, 34, even offered to pay for private guards in the hopes he could make the move.

But Australian Border Force rejected all of his requests and insisted he will remain at the hotel until a court rules on his deportation on Monday.

His detainment at the hotel has sparked rallies in Melbourne and Belgrade with the Serbian government claiming the conditions are not ‘befitting’ to the best sportsman while Djokovic’s family have accused the Australian government of treating their son like a ‘prisoner’.

The site been used as a government detention hotel since December 2020, with staff and guests previously slamming it as an ‘incubator’ for Covid.

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the 'Alternative Place of Detention'

Djokovic has been forced to tough it out alongside 32 other refugees and asylum seekers who have previously complained about poor living conditions at the hotel that has been dubbed the ‘Alternative Place of Detention’

Photos shared by horrified detainees in the hotel showed maggots and mould in the food provided

Photos shared by horrified detainees in the hotel showed maggots and mould in the food provided

Photos shared by horrified detainees in the hotel allegedly showed maggots and mould in the food provided 

Photos shared by an asylum seeker showing the food that is being served to guests at the Park Hotel

Photos shared by an asylum seeker showing the food that is being served to guests at the Park Hotel 

Novak Djokovic and wife Jelena

Novak Djokovic and wife Jelena

Novak Djokovic (left and right with wife Jelena) has broken his silence from inside immigration detention in Australia after being denied entry 

The tennis star will have to remain in his room where the windows are sealed shut and air is circulated by air conditioners. 

In October, nearly half of those being held in the hotel tested positive for the Delta strain, with one man taken to hospital by ambulance. 

Refugees are made to share a common kitchen area and lift if travelling between floors. People who test positive are moved to the first floor but this can happen days after the tests are taken.

On Friday, it emerged that two other people connected to the tournament have joined Djokovic in being instructed to leave the country by the Australian Border Force.

One of the individuals is Czech doubles specialist Renata Voracova, who played in a warm-up tournament in Melbourne this week but has now opted to leave Australia. 

Djokovic broke his silence on Friday and spoke out from inside Australian border detention to thank his family and fans for their support as he waits to hear whether he will be deported.

The Serbian tennis ace, who has been held since Wednesday after he was barred from entering the country to compete in the Australian Open, also posted a Christmas message because today is Christmas Day in the Orthodox tradition.

‘Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated,’ he wrote in English underneath a post in Serbian, in which he also thanked his family and countrymen. 

A second post against a background which featured an image of the birth of Christ said: ‘God’s peace. Christ is born. Happy Christmas. May God’s love invigorate and fulfill you all.’

The athlete’s post came after wife Jelena penned her own Instagram post lending support to her husband while calling for ‘love and forgiveness’. 

The 35-year-old mother-of-two, who met Djokovic as a teenager and has been censured for spreading Covid disinformation in the past, wrote on Instagram that she is ‘taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude (and understanding) in this moment for all that is happening.’ 

Jelena asked for 'love and respect' in message posted alongside a photo of the couple to the social media on Friday (pictured)

Jelena asked for ‘love and respect’ in message posted alongside a photo of the couple to the social media on Friday (pictured)

The 35-year-old mother-of-two said she is 'taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude and understanding' in a message posted on Instagram (above)

The 35-year-old mother-of-two said she is ‘taking a deep breath to calm down and find gratitude and understanding’ in a message posted on Instagram (above)

Djokovic

Djokovic

In one message, written in Serbian and English (left), he thanked his family and fans for standing by him. In a second (right) he wished Orthodox Christians a happy Christmas, which they are marking today

‘Thank you dear people, all around the world for using your voice to send love to my husband,’ she added. ‘The only law that we should all respect across every single border is Love and respect for another human being.’ 

She also wished her husband a ‘happy Christmas’ because Orthodox Christians mark Jesus’s birthday on January 7. An Orthodox priest said it was ‘appalling’ that Djokovic is spending the day in a hotel likened to a ‘torture chamber’.

Her message was posted amid protests in Serbia led by Djokovic’s parents, who have slammed his treatment by Australian border officials – claiming he is being held ‘prisoner’ in ‘terrible’ conditions.

But Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has hit back, saying Djokovic can leave any time he wants and is staying of his own will while lawyers contest the border ruling. His case is due in court Monday. 

‘Mr Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia, he is free to leave at any time that he chooses to do so and Border Force will actually facilitate that,’ she said. 

She spoke as the blame game among Australian officials over the saga continued, with Victoria’s state premier today pointing the finger at tennis bosses. 

Jacinta Allan, acting Victorian premier, has been under pressure because it was her state which granted Djokovic a medical exemption – believed to be on the grounds that he was previously infected with Covid because he is not currently vaccinated.

But Allan clarified on Friday, saying the exemption only qualified Djokovic to play in the tournament and not to cross the Australian border.

Instead she pointed the finger of blame at Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia boss, after it emerged the Department of Health sent him two letters back in November saying that prior Covid infection would not be sufficient to cross the border. 

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley informed the nation's advisory body on immunisation in November last year the viability of the tournament hinged on 'allowing' overseas players to compete in Melbourne who were not double-vaccinated

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley informed the nation’s advisory body on immunisation in November last year the viability of the tournament hinged on ‘allowing’ overseas players to compete in Melbourne who were not double-vaccinated

Allan said Tiley failed to inform her government that the exemption which qualified Djokovic to play in the tournament would not get him into the country.

According to her account, it was this failed communication which led Djokovic to board a flight to Australia believing he had been granted an exemption to enter the country – when in fact he had not.

Ms Allan said: ‘It is the Commonwealth government … that’s responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in that dialogue with bodies like Tennis Australia is a matter for them.’ 

Exemptions to play in the Australian Open are ‘very much separate from the visa process,’ Allan added. 

But Tiley has broken his silence over the Novak Djokovic visa debacle, claiming his staff have done an ‘unbelievable job’ despite the governing body coming under fire for giving the unvaxxed star wrong health advice.

Tiley also called out numerous instances of ‘finger pointing’ that have followed in the ugly saga the past few days – while Serbian superstar and anti-vaxxer Djokovic remains stranded in immigration detention in Melbourne, a far cry from his usual luxurious lifestyle.

In a leaked video, Tiley acknowledged TA staff’s professionalism and diligence in what he firmly believes has been a thorough job in the lead up to the annual grand slam tournament.

‘There’s a lot of finger pointing going on and a lot of blaming going on, but I can assure you our team has done an unbelievable job and have done everything they possibly could according to all the instructions that they have been provided,’ he said in the clip.

‘We empathise with the situation we currently have. We are a player first event…we are working closely with Novak and his team.’

Leaked letter PROVES Tennis Australia bosses told unvaccinated players a past Covid infection  would get them into the country

A leaked letter has revealed that unvaccinated tennis players were told they could attend the Australian Open provided they had Covid within the last six months – piling pressure on Tennis Australia bosses over the Novak Djokovic border debacle. 

Guidance sent to players in early December and now leaked to the press lays out reasons that athletes can qualify for a ‘medical exemption’ to enter Australia, saying that ‘recently recovered cases’ will be allowed into the country.

To qualify, players were told to provide a Covid-positive PCR test dated after July 31 along with antibody tests proving natural immunity ‘if available’. The leak will heap pressure on Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley to prove what he was told and when, and why exactly that guidance was issued. 

Novak Djokovic: Star pictured hugging children at PR event the day after his 'positive PCR test'

 

Novak Djokovic: Star pictured hugging children at PR event the day after his 'positive PCR test'

 

It is believed that Djokovic travelled to Australia using this exemption only to be stopped at the border and told that he didn’t meet requirements, leaving him languishing in a ‘torture chamber’ hotel used for detained immigrants.

Mr Tiley was already under pressure after Jacinta Allan, acting Victorian premier, accused him of failing to disclose guidance he was given in November saying that prior infections would not count at border control.

She denied that a medical exemption issued by her state had qualified Djokovic to cross the Australian border, saying it only gave him access to venues in the state.

Ms Allan said: ‘It is the Commonwealth government … that’s responsible for issuing visas and how they engage in that dialogue with bodies like Tennis Australia is a matter for them.’ 

Exemptions to play in the Australian Open are ‘very much separate from the visa process,’ Allan added.  

Supporters of the Serbian tennis star have gathered outside the Covid hotel where he is being quarantined to demand that he be released

Supporters of the Serbian tennis star have gathered outside the Covid hotel where he is being quarantined to demand that he be released

The hotel where Djokovic is being kept has been likened to a 'torture chamber' which is also used to house refugees

The hotel where Djokovic is being kept has been likened to a ‘torture chamber’ which is also used to house refugees

Opponents of Djokovic- who has drawn controversy in the past after speaking out against vaccines - have also been out protesting

Opponents of Djokovic- who has drawn controversy in the past after speaking out against vaccines – have also been out protesting

Djokovich has been receiving calls from Serbia, including from his parents and the president, hoping to boost his spirits. 

A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne sought permission from immigration authorities to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.

‘Our Christmas is rich in many customs and it is so important that a priest visits him,’ the church’s dean, Milorad Locard, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.  

‘The whole thing around this event is appalling. That he has to spend Christmas in detention … it is unthinkable.’

Djokovic’s supporters gathered outside the Park Hotel, used to house refugees and asylum seekers near downtown Melbourne, waving flags and banners.

They mixed with human rights advocates who were there more to highlight the plight for other longer-term people in detention, many who’ve complained about their living conditions and exposure to the coronavirus in the pandemic.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled because he ‘didn’t meet the requirements of entry’. 

Djokovic’s legal team took the matter to the Federal Court of Australia in an attempt to have the decision swiftly overturned.

Victoria premier Jacinta Allan, whose state granted Djokovic a medical exemption, said that only permits him to play in the tournament - not enter the country

Victoria premier Jacinta Allan, whose state granted Djokovic a medical exemption, said that only permits him to play in the tournament – not enter the country

On Thursday, the court ordered Djokovic could remain in the country until at least Monday 4pm. It’s hoped the matter will be settled in court that day.

Tennis Australia have indicated they want a decision as to whether Djokovic can play in the Grand Slam no later than Tuesday ‘for scheduling purposes’. 

How Australian authorities have handballed responsibility over the Djokovic visa saga 

Victorian acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford says: 

‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia. We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam. 

‘We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.’ 

Home Affairs Minister Jaren Andrews says:

‘The ABF did not request Victorian government support for a visa. The ABF reached out to the Victorian government to validate their public statements about their support for Mr Djokovic’s entry, and whether Victoria had further information related to his medical exemption documentation.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says:

‘Tennis Australia, as I understand, said that he could play and that is fine, that is their call. But we make the call on the border and that is where it is enforced.

‘I am unaware of the Victorian government position on whether they were prepared to allow him to not have to quarantine or not.’

Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley says:

‘The Commonwealth lets you into the country. Tennis Australia, in partership with the state, lets you into the tournament… Someone issued Novak Djokovic a visa, and it wasn’t the Victorian government.

‘I’m not blaming the Commonwealth for anything. All I’m saying is there is a two-step process to get into the country… You get into the country, that’s the Commonwealth of Australia’s responsibility. 

Novak Djokovic’s brother Djordje says:

‘He had the same document as several tennis players who are already in Australia. Novak and his team had no way of contacting federal authorities. The only way to make contact was via Tennis Australia. Novak didn’t apply, Tennis Australia did.’ 

 

The Australian Open was dealt a further blow today as Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews revealed two other international arrivals were being investigated after travelling to Australia in similar circumstances for the Open.

‘I can confirm the Australian Border Force is conducting its inquiries … I am aware that there are two individuals currently being investigated by Australian Border Force,’ Andrews told Channel Seven. 

Andrews said anyone entering Australia had to show evidence of vaccination or medical reasons why they are not vaccinated.

‘We do have the intelligence to indicate there are some individuals here now that have not met the entry requirements and we have to investigate that,’ Andrews said earlier on the Nine Network.

‘I know there is a lot of chatter about the visa. The visa, on my understanding, is not the issue, it is the entry requirement.

‘The Border Force has been very clear that he (Novak) was not able to meet the requirement to provide the evidence he needed for entry to Australia.’

Beyond the quiet of Djokovic’s hotel, the outcry in his native Serbia is growing with his family saying he had been ‘held captive’ and insisting the treatment of one of sport’s greatest performers was a disgrace. 

His family complained about the hotel as around 300 fans held a rally in front of the country’s parliament building in the capital Belgrade,

‘It’s just some small immigration hotel, if we can call it a hotel at all. Some bugs, it’s dirty, and the food is so terrible,’ Djokovic’s mother Dijana said in a press conference.

His father Srdjan promised the crowd the protests would be held every day until Djokovic was released. 

Nearer to home, former Davis Cup player Paul McNamee who ran the Australian Open from 1995 until 2006 as tournament director, joined those who think the 34-year-old deserved his day on court, not in court.

‘It’s not fair. The guy played by the rules, he got his visa, he arrives, he’s a nine-time champion and whether people like it or not he’s entitled to fair play,’ McNamee told ABC News.

‘There’s no doubt there’s some disconnect between the state and the federal government. I hate to think politics are involved but it feels that way.’

Djokovic, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has garnered headlines in recent years for his stance on Covid vaccines that has enhanced his reputation as a polorising figure.

He first spoke out against vaccination back in April 2020, when the first wave of Covid was spreading and before a jab had even been developed, to say he was not in favour of getting one.

Further controversy came in June when he hosted a Balkans tennis tournament with no mask wearing or social distancing measures in place that led to several players – including himself – getting infected with Covid.

As vaccines were rolled out last year and travel rules relaxed for those who had taken the jab, Djokovic remained silent about his own status – leading many to suspect he had not been jabbed and would not be allowed to play at the Australian Open.

But come December, his name was announced on lists for both the Open and the warm-up ATP Cup – with Tennis Australia revealing earlier this month that he had been granted a medical exemption. 

Srdjan and Diana Djokovic, the tennis star's parents, have been leading protests in his native Serbia against the decision - calling it politically motivated

Srdjan and Diana Djokovic, the tennis star’s parents, have been leading protests in his native Serbia against the decision – calling it politically motivated

Protests erupted outside the detention hotel where Novak is being held

Protests erupted outside the detention hotel where Novak is being held

That prompted a furious backlash from Australians who have been suffering under some of the world’s strictest virus control measures for two years, including tight border rules and bans for the unvaccinated.

Amid the furor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled at the airport and he would be sent home.

While the decision delighted Djokovic’s critics and many ordinary Australians, it also sparked recriminations for Mr Morrison, finger-pointing between the bodies involved, and allegations of political grandstanding.

Djokovic’s father insists he’s being ‘kept in captivity… to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people’ in a fiery speech which also likened the sportsman to Jesus.

‘Jesus was crucified on the cross … but he is still alive among us,’ Srdjan said. ‘They are trying to crucify and belittle Novak and throw him to his knees.’

The comments came as Djokovic’s parents slammed ‘idiot’ Australian officials for detaining him in a refugee hotel as a bitter war of words erupted after the tennis star had his visa cancelled.

Srdjan railed against his ‘imprisonment’ saying he is the victim of a ‘political attack’, having been made a ‘scapegoat’ of Australia’s harsh vaccine rules.

He called on Serbians and people all around the world to ‘rise up’ and challenge the politicians and border agents who want to ‘humiliate’ their sporting star.

How has the Djokovic saga unfolded since the pandemic began? 

Less than six weeks after Covid was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Novak Djokovic took part in an April 2020 Facebook live stream with fellow Serbian athletes to express his doubts over vaccines.

A vaccination against Covid had not yet even been created, and yet Djokovic was already telling his fans he was ‘opposed to vaccination and wouldn’t want to be forced to take a vaccine in order to travel’. 

‘My job requires lots of travel. Some are saying that, for us who travel, we would have to take the vaccine that is yet to be developed. Therefore, I would like to repeat and point out that at this moment, we do not have adequate information,’ he said.

‘I am no expert, but I do want to have an option to choose what’s best for my body. I am keeping an open mind, and I’ll continue to research this topic because it is important and it will affect all of us.’

By June of the same year, Djokovic had tested positive to Covid, along with at least four of his colleagues.

He’d been playing an exhibition tournament that he organised in the Balkan region with limited health and safety protocols.

‘I am so deeply sorry our tournament caused harm. Everything the organisers and I did the past month, we did with a pure heart and sincere intentions… We were wrong and it was too soon. I can’t express how sorry I am for this and every case of infection,’ he said in a statement.

Even after his apology, Djokovic refused to reveal his vaccination status, describing it as his private medical information.

The Australian Open is the first competition since vaccines became available that has mandated the jab. 

It will be clearer come Monday whether Djokovic will be free to contest the title for a 10th year. 

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