Socio-ecological Union

The Newsletter of
the Socio-Ecological Union
A Center for Coordination
and Information

Moscow, Russia -- Issue 11(09), November/December, 1999

  Dear friends! We wish you happy winter holidays - Christmas and New Year!
  We hope that in year 2000 all of us will go on with our work - and that we all will find more friends and allies! 1999 Christmas eve is also a celebration for SEU - the largest environmental organization within CIS - 24 of December is an official SEU birthday. 11 years ago, the founding conference in Moscow gathered more than 400 people from 89 places of then still existent USSR to pronounce establishment of the Socio-Ecological Union.
  Welcome to SEU !
















  Dec. 29, 1999 - After more than four years of persecution, the St. Petersburg City Court showed judicial independence today and ended the case against environmental whistle blower Alexander Nikitin.
  The court, presided over by Judge Sergey Golets, acquitted Nikitin of all charges. It is not yet clear whether the prosecution will appeal.
  Nikitin was arrested and charged with espionage by the FSB, the unrepentant successor to the infamous Soviet-era KGB for his participation in the Bellona report "The Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination". He has maintained throughout the more than four years the investigation lasted that all information he contributed to the report was publicly available. In addition, he and international personalities have maintained that the need for information about the dangerous storage practices of nuclear waste in the Russian navy was paramount for the world community to know and under the Russian Constitution, such information could under no circumstances be classified as secret.
  Nikitin became one of the world's most prominent environmental activists, and was honored by a large number of international organisations. Among other honours, in 1997 he received the Goldman Prize for Environmental Heroism, often called the Nobel Prize for the environment.
  Nikitin thanks his international supporters, whose infatigable work on his behalf has kept the spotlight on the case for more than four years.

  More and updated info:
  Regards, The Bellona Foundation
  Fax: +47 22383862 Phone: +47 23234600
  Snail mail: BELLONA, Box 2141 Grunerlokka, N-0505 Oslo, Norway


  The investigation of this man, whom the security services called a spy, has lasted four years. The prosecutor had called for 12 years of imprisonment of Alexander Nikitin.
  The FSB had waged a smear campaign against Nikitin through the use of the press and television in order to discredit him. In particular, state television channel 5 showed a slanderous series previously prepared and clearly timed to coincide with the court examination. The use of expensively prepared footage, including shots of distant locations and of a large number of people living far from Saint Petersburg, demonstrates the large amount of money spent on the television series. The film was designed as an attempt to discredit not only the environmental activist, but also those who surround him: his relatives, friends, civil rights supporters, journalists, and the entire environmental movement in Russia in general.


  Prominent scientist Yuri Bandazhevsky, head of Gomel Medical University, of Belarus, has experienced this danger himself. He is kept in prison since July 13, 1999, under the false charges of bribe. The true reason why once respected professore suddenly turned into criminal is quite different. Bandazhevsky has been working to investigate the impacts of Chernobyl disaster on Belarus population and ecosystems, and his conclusions contradict the official position.
  Officially, Belarus is in general through with the Chernobyl consequences. However, Bandazhevsky proved that radioactive particles, still contaminating Belarus, even in small amounts, but being consumed persistantly are dealy threat to humans. The results were published in two books and numerous articles. This fact calls for strict limitations on local food production and consumption, and also limits the export possibilities.
  The information about dangers of low-level radioactive food contamination would scare off potential customers, in Russia first of all.
  But official authorities are placing one-day economy interests ahead of the nations health and safety, and thus Bandazhevsky is a serious threat to them. The fate of the professor was decided when he publicized results of his work in Commission inspecting the funds spending for Chernobyl consequences elimination. Bandazhevsky has been on the Commission since early 1999, and in June his conclusion came that the majority of Chernobyl funds were stolen and spent on purposes very different from Chernobyl consequences elimination. The only way to influence the case is to send the protest letters to the Prosecutor General of Belarus.


  Just before this issue was out, we received relatively good news from Belarus - Bandazhevsky was released from prison under obligation of non-leaving Minsk, Belarus capital. He is in a bad health condition. Your support by protest letters is needed!


  Address by International Socio-Ecological Union concerning developments in Chechen Republic Ichkeriya (Russia)
  According to mass-media reports about the leaflets issued by Russian military headquarters in Chechnya everybody who was staying in Groznyi should have left the city before 11th of December. Otherwise they are to be classified as terrorists. This policy has already resulted in targeted strikes of "Grad" rocket launchers to those who didn't leave Groznyi and plans to use whipping flying bombs against ordinary people.
  SEU members who signed this appeal don't argue about the rights of any state to liquidate illegal military forces by implementing internationally accepted tools.
  The main tragedy of Groznyi citizens is that those who is staying in town now which is one tenth of former 400 thousand population, may not have any possibility to go anywhere or they might be forced to stay. We should remember that all of them are also Russian citizens as well as the soldiers fighting for the lives of Chechnya people using artillery and aviation.
  In this conditions we consider it to be necessary to undertake all possible humanitarian measures for the safety of Groznyi citizens. We think that for the achievement of this goal we should forget the slogan "No negotiations with terrorists!" and to start talking to antagonistic side about the humanitarian aid providence for non-combatant population of Groznyi.
  This aid might be the following:
  • to depart children, women, old and sick people, and men not participating the war beyond non-combatant vacuum;
  • to provide humanitarian convey with food and medicaments for those who stayed in blockade;
  • other measures according governmental decision.

  We call Military Command to withdraw from any military actions that may hurt non-combatant population before these humanitarian actions are organized. In case of illegal military leaders refuse from such negotiations they will have to accept all responsibility for the suffering of non-combatant people.
  We think that true risk of illegal military forces taking advantage of such a break in war should not be an excuse for not taking these humanitarian actions. Russian members of SEU address their country citizens in their attitude to events at Caucasus not to be lead by the filling of revenge and national antipathy because of small bunch of terrorists and separatists temporary taken command of Chechen nation. Especially we turn for support and understanding to our Chechen fellow citizens. Not any even the most attractive national idea should be realized through violence and terror. That way we lead only to suffering of innocent people.


  November 5-11 - the European strategy session on genetic engineering problems was, organized by ASEED Europe and hosted by SEU member organization Viola was held in Bryansk. The participants discussed different problem caused by TNC attempts to introduce GE products to the markets, and ways to resist this GE wave. As one of the results, participants came up with a common statement - Bryansk declaration, which you will find at the end of this article.
  The CIS countries became easy targets for transnational companies pushing on GE products, especially after Europeans violently opposed introduction of GE in their markets. The population lacks information about the problem, 40% of food product labels are not in Russian. July 1, 2000 is date when all GE food MUST be labelled. Food markets are full of soya products, and full of products that are not monitored by the state. Until July 2000, GE products will be pushed onto Russian market (dumped from unwilling European markets). But it is yet unknown, what kind of labelling it will be, and will it be of any use. There are some evidences that many GE products were shipped to Russia already, without any testing or licencing. Since 1997 Russia has the law that regulates genetic engineering activities. Only one article from this law is dedicated to GE food. It is said there that every crop and products from it should pass the certification process in Russian scientific institutions.
  The main lobbyist of this regulation was Konstantin Skryabin the director of the center for bioengineering of Russian Academy of Science. According to the information we have his institute receives a significant funding from Monsanto. Unfortunately, Russian science is too poor to be independent, and also it is traditional perception that all scientific achievements are good.
  This summer Russia's Health Ministry has issued its first official license to import genetically modified food to Monsanto. ``The license on the free use for food purposes of genetically modified soybeans resistant to glyphosate was issued for three years until July 2002,'' said Lyudmila Simkalova, head of the rationing and certificates center at the ministry. This fall Russia introduced labeling for GE products.
  It was officially known that Russia didn't buy GE food, but it is not true because we buy Nestle, Danon and other products. Russian genetic research institutes were presently testing for safety GM soy products produced by Danish and French firms as well as potatoes resistant to pests, produced by a European subsidiary of Monsanto. NewLeaf potato was tested in 1998 in Moscow region. State Ecological Committee banned the trial, it caused some problems for Monsanto at the first stage but finally they finished the experiment successfully. GE Companies have good regional policy, are building up relations with regional scientific institutions, such as in Vologda, Bryansk, etc. It is very hard to control this process.
  SEU CCI Press-service is currently working on the campaign against introducing Genetically Modified Organism products into markets, and in this effort we have partners from Ukraine, Hungary, Scotland, Netherlands and international organizations like ASEED.
  SEU CCI Press-service was the first to launch the campaign in Russia almost 3 years ago, it proved to be an important information source for society and media, when in year 1999 products with GMO components started infiltrating Russian market. In December 1999 we compiled and published a special issue of our bulletin for media, Ecosvodka -Obozrenie on GE in 22 pages, explaining the situation around GE, describing the main GE products and ways to avoid them, social and political developments around GE. This edition will be circulated to media, NGO community and, through interested NGOs, to public. It is planned to compile and publish a brochure "Citizens guide to GMO", explaining people what is GE? what are the interests and stakes and how to avoid GE-products.

  For more information:


  Georgia Greens are Campaigning against Genetically Modified Organisms since 1997. Campaign aims to ban Genetically Modified Potatoes introversion by Monsanto, increased public awareness, research the current situation, preparation and lobbying of law on Genetically Modified Organisms.

  A bit of History
  In June 1995 as a result of shortage of seed potatoes, the Ministry of Agriculture adopted a Seed Potato Production Project prepared by the Georgian Agro-biotechnology institute. The project partners included the Ministry of Agriculture, the US transnational Monsanto and the Agricultural Co-operative Development International (ACDI) a US organization working in Georgia. In addition, it is understood that there was some funding by the EU's Tacis program, to the tune of US $2 million. (Ministry of Agriculture did not inform the Ministry of Environment and Committees of Environment and Agriculture about the decision to import GM potatoes.)
  The project entailed the import to Georgia of 148 of Monsanto's genetically modified NewLeaf potatoes, in June 1996. The NewLeaf potatoes contains two foreign genes, one from a bacteria, Bacillus thurangiensis (BT), to provide a built-in pesticide against the Colorado beetle, and the second, a so called "market" gene resistant to the antibiotic Kanamycin. According to letter to Monsanto in January 1996, the Georgian Minister of Food and Agriculture writes: "Georgia agrees to saw genetically improved potatoes for seed production and will not create any obstacles, not only to using them as seed material, but also as food", despite an agreement by the Environment and Agriculture Parliamentary Committees in April 1997, "to ban the import and cultivation of GM products in Georgia, until proper legislation is in place" Monsanto's GM potatoes were sawn again in 1997.
  The import of GM potatoes contradicted Georgia's legislation, which requires imported varieties of crops to undergo a preliminary 3-year testing program. Moreover, there are no laws in Georgia to regulate GMO activities or imports.
  Fortunately, the GM potato crop failed, producing just 600 tons of potatoes. It seems that GM potatoes were not adapted to local conditions and were killed by a fungal disease.
  In last research of Greenpeace International, in cooperation with FOE local group ELKANA and Georgia Greens in the July of 1998, is underlined that Ministry of Agriculture receives from Tacis 350 000 USD and that EU "doesn't aware" that it funded the transgenic potatoes.

  The recent activities include preparation of draft law on Genetically Modified Organisms and lobbying it into the Ministry of Environment and Parliament, increase media attention on Biosafety issues.

  For contacts:


  (latest version, 10 dec. 1999)
  We are scientists, writers, ecologists, farmers, doctors, philosophers, sociologists, lawyers, agronomists, environmentalists, activists, and parents from eighteen Central, Eastern and Western European countries who, together with colleagues from the United States, met in Bryansk, Russia, for a week of discussion and friendship in November 1999, following which we issued this our joint statement, to be hereafter known as the "Bryansk Declaration":
  In recognition of:
  • our belief that the bases of our lives are ethical and spiritual and not commercial,
  • our commitment to the values which have been put at risk by current overconsumption and globalization policies,
  • our wish to ensure for all children a vibrant and healthy world,

  • our insistence that the survival and sustenance of our species and that of other species with whom we share our ecosystems be given precedence over the pursuit of international trade and the accumulation of goods,
  • our respect for our own place in our ecosystems,
  • our appreciation of our lands and ecosystems and our desire to cherish and protect them,
  • our desire to preserve, sustain and celebrate both cultural and biological diversity,

  • our wish to nurture a variety of sustainable agricultures,
  • our acknowledgement that biodiversity is a powerful means of protecting ourselves and our agriculture from pests and plagues,
  • our understanding that regionally developed production systems are sustaining and sustainable, are based on the protection and sustainable use of regional biodiversity, and do not require genetic engineering,
  • our resentment of the introduction of genetically modified organisms into our countries without our consent,

  • our need of food security and food safety for all,
  • our respect for local sovereignty ,
  • our insistence that citizens - and not Science or the Market or political parties - are the sovereigns of decision-making,

  • our insistence that our choice of technological pathways be based on freedom of information, public participation, public benefit, independent and competent expertise, accountability of authorities, application of the polluter-pays-principle, and the right to appeal decisions in a court of law,
  • our appreciation of the wisdom of the Precautionary Principle, TRADE
  • our determination to defend our food systems and our lives against domination by corporate ownership of seeds,
  • our indignation at the economic and social disruptions and insecurities posed by genetic engineering to farmers around the world,
  • our sense of urgency to ensure the continuation and promotion of sustainable, family farm activities that have resulted in the diversity of our rural areas and hold the greatest potential for rich and varied traditions of food production,

  • our wish to honor those peoples who have cultivated and nurtured, selected and protected, the biodiversity that is the basis of our food and medicine today,
  • our revulsion at those who steal and profit from the theft of that biodiversity,

  We demand:

  • That the process of Agrarian Reform to guarantee food sovereignty, the right to produce, and the access to land be reactivated and promoted,
  • That governments favor those policies and projects which do NOT drive farmers off the land,
  • That the research funding of governments favor those technologies and projects which discourage concentration of ownership and concentration of production in agriculture,
  • That means are found to promote and encourage local markets and that preference be given to the promotion of local markets over the further development of export-oriented intensive agriculture,

  • That the policies and structures of the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO) which defy democratic control, destroy local production and local markets, and serve transnational corporations be abolished,
  • That the external debt of the "Third World" be cancelled,
  • That agricultural and food security issues be excluded from international trade agreements,

  • That a stringent and effective biosafety protocol be negotiated, ratified, and implemented,
  • That there be a halt to the testing, production, and trade of genetically modified foods and organisms and the products of those organisms until an international biosafety protocol has been implemented in all our countries, and, that in the interim, there be no releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) nor entry of GMOs into our market places unless the biosafety, desirability, necessity, and sustainability of such creations and products have been demonstrated to the satisfaction of the members of our societies,
  • That full information be made available to public concerning any products imported into our countries, including information about the contents of those products,about whether those contents are genetically engineered or made by genetically engineered organisms, and about the company(ies) that produced those products,
  • That decision-making on genetic engineering, and on what products shall be allowed entry into our country and onto our markets, should be transparent decision-making, made with full, real, and representative public participation,
  • That all genetically engineered food, feed, fiber, and other products be labelled as such,
  • That governments, in accordance with the provisions of the Aarhus Convention, provide their peoples with full and timely information on decisions already made concerning genetic engineering, including information on genetically engineered products already permitted entry into our countries,
  • That there be the recognition of the right of every country to close its borders to the genetically engineered products, seeds, and commodities of others,
  • That seeds engineered with "terminator" and trait restriction technologies be banned from international trade,

  • That there be NO patents granted for any living organism or its parts,
  • That those patents on living organisms and/or their parts that have already been granted be rescinded,

  • That transnational corporations be made accountable for their activities everywhere,
  • That corporations be made to bear the cost of any risk assessments and remediation of negative outcomes related to their crops, products, and manufactures,
  • That farmers who reject genetic engineering not be made to bear the cost of ascertaining whether or not their crops and products are free of genetic engineering,
  • That all existing anti-trust and market concentration laws in our countries be enforced,

  • That projects, experiments, and proposals related to eugenics of any form of biological warfare be utterly rejected and denied any form of funding or approval,

  • And that the same level of self-determination and protection that we demand for ourselves be accorded all others who respect the protection of human rights.

  Signatures received as of December 9, 1999 (listed in the order received):
  Markku Ramo, Chairman of the Finnish Seedsavers' Association for The Finnish Seedsavers' Association Maatiainen r.y.
  Lucy Michaels, For Genetic Engineering Network, U.K.
  Luke Anderson, author of Genetic Engineering, Food, and Our Environment
  Olga Berlova, Of SEU (Socio-Ecological Union), Russia
  WERVEL (Werkgroep voor en Rechtvaardige en Verantwoorde Landbouw), Belgium
  Ir. Louis De Bruyn, Professor in the Agricultural Teachers' Training "Plantijn - Hogeschool van de Provincie Antwerpen" and member of the board of WERVEL, Belgium
  Stephanie Howard, Nina Holland, Helen Holder, For A SEED Europe (Netherlands)
  Dan Swartz, For A SEED Europe (Hungary)
  Iza Kruszewska, International Coordinator
  ANPED (Northern Alliance for Sustainability)
  Dian Nikolov Deja, representative of Eco-South West - Bulgaria
  Ieva Zalite, For ZB-Green Liberty, Latvia
  Viola Sampson, For Women's Environmental Network, U.K.
  Gyorgy Stuber, formerly of Greenpeace-Sweden
  Edward Hammond, formerly of RAFI-USA
  Martin Shaw, From GenetiX Snowball, U.K.
  Biological Farming Association, ELKANA, Georgia contact person: Mariam Jorjadee
  Tanya Topchiy, For Green Dossier, Ukraine
  Marie Haisova, For Agentura GAIA, Czech Republic
  Sadhbh O'Neill, For Genetic Concern, Ireland
  Trix Kruger, For Dutch Genetic Platform
  Beth Burrows, For The Edmonds Institute, USA

  For more information:
  Nina Holland
  A SEED Europe
  1090 AB Amsterdam, Netherlands
  tel: +31 20-668-22-36, 20-468-26-16, fax: +31 20-468-22-75


  On November 15-19 in Moscow negotiations between public environmental groups from Ural, Siberia and Volga region and Russian Government on public participation in Russian nuclear policy defining, plutonium and spent fuel safety were held. The regions mentioned above are those with the nuclear cycle product treatment facilities. The representatives of Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry for Nature Resources, Ministry for Nuclear Energy, State Environmental Committee participated in negotiations. It is planned that negotiations are to be continued in year 2000.
  One of the negotiations issues was the amendment to the Law on Environmental Protection pushed by Minatom allowing foreign nuclear waste shipment to Russia. Russian State Duma, the lower chamber of the parliament, held first reading of a bill regarding amendment of the Law on Environmental Protection to allow spent fuel imports to Russia on September 24. The Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy, or Minatom, failed to persuade Russian Cabinet members to approve amendments and forward them to the State Duma for consideration in late August. The Duma took the issue up on its own without waiting for the Cabinet.
  Minatom's lobbyists are working hard on separating the issues of spent fuel and radioactive waste in the bill amending the Law on Environmental Protection of the Russian Federation. The current version of the law says that any import of radioactive materials is prohibited. Once 'spent fuel' and 'radioactive waste' are separate issues, fuel will be considered a resource eligible for import.
  The amendments have reportedly received support among all the Duma factions. The Federal Environmental Committee turned down the drafted bill on several occasions before.
  The idea to accept foreign spent fuel for reprocessing was an old dream of Minatom that was buried some 5-6 years ago when the construction of a new reprocessing plant, RT-2, in Krasnoyarsk County, Western Siberia, was put on hold due to the lack of funding. The idea to import spent fuel was recently revoked by the U.S. based Non-Proliferation Trust (NPT) that suggested storage of 10,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel in Russia. Minatom enlarged this idea by suggesting to import unlimited amounts of spent fuel and proposing reprocessing services as well.

  For more information: E-mail:


  One of the valuable nature objects of the World Nature Heritage List in Altay republic is endangered by development projects. Altai was added to the List of World Nature Heritage by the UNESCO commission on World Nature Heritage session in Kyoto on December 1, 1998. The nominated area included Altai zapovednik, Teleckoye lake, Katun' zapovednik, Belukha mountain, Ukok flat highlands.
  But recently Altai Republic Government decided to construct a highway and a gas pipeline to China over the Ukok highlands. The project will destroy a vast and unique area which is a complex biological, cultural and historical system. The historical and cultural value of the place is enormous - here the famous Pazyryk burial hills are located. The monument of skythian culture are dated from the bronze era to late middle ages, experts say. Due to unique climatic conditions many burials have preserved almost undamaged, including corpses of skythian nobility and their belongings.
  Experts say that Mountain Altai could be developed as an area of eco-tourism and eco-production, like medial herbs and food products for children. The SEU member organization have started a protest campaign against the project, they have already collected a significant amount of signatures against the project. They also have adressed the project initiators - "The Siberian Agreement" group, demanding real and open public hearings on future Altai development, and pointed out the necessity to consider the sustainable way of the area development, without destroying common historical, ethnical and environmental values.

  For more information:
  Altai SEU branch - E-mail:


  It seems that Italian Technology Innovations company have found a direct and safe way to the heart of Bishkek (Kyrgizstan) mayor.
  Otherwise it is hard to explain why city administration decided to take up an expensive and dangerous project of the household waste incinerator. The outdated and environmentally dangerous, economically unreasonable project was adopted without any environment impact assessment or environmental review, despite the fact that there were two Kyrgyz and Russian alternative projects, at least 2 times less expensive.
  The environmental NGOs of Bishkek pointed out that, besides all violations, the Western technology can't be just transferred to Kyrgyzstan at least because of different waste collection and separation practices. Present project will pollute the city with different toxins, including dioxins. The plant will also produce significant amount of toxic residues after plastic and ferrous waste combustion. "We demand open public discussion of the project and fair consideration of all alternatives, with national independent experts participation", states the open letter by Environmental NGOs.

  For more information:
  Youth environmental movement "BIOM" E-mail:


  Another active SEU member organization "Dront", from Nizhny Novgorod, has celebrated 10th anniversary of successful work. Since 1989 Dront has developed a team of experts efficiently working in different fields of environmental protection. This public organization has gained a significant weight with local authorities and now Dront members are participating in decision-making and legislation process on environmental issues. In year 1998 in contest held by EU and USA, Dront was named among 10 Russian NGOs most active and efficient in forming civil society in Russia.
  Currently Dront has 25 structural units working almost in every field of environmental protection. The most developed and efficient are the following:
  The biodiversity conservation laboratory is leading in nature protection. It has developed program for biodiversity conservation of the region, designed around 400 nature monuments (a form of protected area) and around 20 reserves. The laboratory has prepared the local law on protected areas, adopted by the local parliament. Currently Laboratory is working on Red Book of the region.
  SEU newspaper Bereginya is published in Nizhny Novgorod by EcoCenter Dront. This newspaper comes monthly, its circulation is 10 000. This newspaper deals with environmental and social problems, its contributing authors are SEU members and well known scientists, writers etc. Bereginya highlights different issues concerning environmental NGO work, special attention is given to "environmental lifestyle for everyone". This is one of the few "green" newspapers which circulation comes beyond the NGO community. At the same time, due to its popularity within the movement it is one of the important communication and cooperation means.
  "Help the River" movement is well known by its projects and programs on rivers, as well as for its annual meetings "Volga days" gathering international environmental community representatives. The Green world union is known as river cleaners in Volga region. It also organizes annual Days for small rivers protection, which have stepped far beyond the region borders.
  The center for public environmental review have already held a number of successful reviews, have assisted local people in winning a court case protecting their environmental rights, and is giving permanent consultations on public participation in environmental decision making.

  For contacts: E-mail:


  Ural Environmental Union is a regional public organization uniting scientists, public leaders, teachers, journalists, lawyers and other people who's work or interests are related to environment. The Union states its mission as promotion of the sustainable development of the region through public participation and public education, support for realization of environmentally important projects and programs, independent expertise, participation in legislation process and lobbying.
  The Union considers promotion of cooperation between different public groups a very important tool for positive changes. Among activities held by Union: environmental review of Chusovaya river, organizing the referendum on Beloyarskaya NPP expansion, first in the region exhibition and workshop "Uralecolgia", development of the integrated program on protected areas within Ural region, public review of several significant regional law projects.
  For contacts: E-mail:


  One of the oldest youth nature clubs has celebrated its 75 th birthday!
  It is the Club of the Young Biologists of the Moscow Zoo that has survive all social and political changes, proving one more time that it was the spirit of adventure and love for nature that kept its work going for all these years. The Club has brought up 1800 people, 9 of them have become Academics, 40 - professors, and more than 300 received a doctor of science degrees. Almost every protected area; biology science institute or university has Club's former members as employees.

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