The Newsletter of
A Center for Coordination
Moscow, Russia -- Issue 6(15),
IN THIS ISSUE:
THE SEVENTH CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL UNION
REFERENDUM KILLED, NUCLEAR WASTES WELCOMED
CHAOS IN RUSSIAN GENETIC ENGINEERING ACTIVITIES
LIVING WITH TAIGA
LACK OF CONTROL IS WHAT SOME INSTITUTIONS BENEFIT FROM
MURAVIEVKA, THE SEU PARK
THE SEVENTH CONFERENCE OF THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIO-ECOLOGICAL UNION
The Seventh Conference of the International Socio-Ecological
Union was held in Kiev from August 21st-25th. Altogether some 160
people attended, including 120 delegates and 60 guests. An
unprecedented number of sections - sixteen - were represented at the
The conference showed that cooperative efforts within the
framework of the SEU is expanding. In addition to the fact that every
program and campaign of the SEU (ten were represented at the
conference) carried out its own section, another seven themes appeared
in working groups' discussions: sustainable tourism, publicizing the
SEU's programs and campaigns in the press, the school for young
ecologists (a new program called "Qualification"), sustainable
development, public environmental control, genetically modified
organisms (GMO), and oil pollution in seas. The SEU's program
"Qualification" was begun at the conference, and the SEU's campaign
against the spread of genetically altered organisms received its
Each program announced its future plans, which the conference
participants discussed and ratified.
Thus the program "Eco-Housing for the 21st Century" announced the
beginning of the building of demonstration and ordinary ecohomes in
several regions of Russia. The program has found new partners in
Zaonezh'e (Karelia), Krasnoyarsky Krai, Tatarstan, and Ukraine.
The program "Chemical Safety" described the lack of appropriate
attention in the "green" community toward chemical safety issues. The
scale of activity of this program needs to grow. This includes
providing help to new local public initiatives.
The program "Ecology and Children's Health" believes it is
imperative to provide support to those organizations that work in
defending children from harmful environmental factors, especially from
endocrine damage. The program is creating a thematic network intended
to become the Eurasian division of the large worldwide network
"International Network on Children's Health, Environment and Safety".
The program "For Environmental Safety in Rocket-Space Activity"
will be monitoring people's health and the state of the environment in
regions with heavy rocket-space activity. Future involvement in
environmental consulting in RSA programs and projects is planned, as
is participation in the development of national and international
environmental politics in RSA spheres.
The Forest Campaign of the SEU discussed and ratified a new
initiative of campaign participants: a project to restore oak stands
in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, and also in several other countries in
which there are organizations prepared to work actively in this field.
The Section on Nuclear Safety, which unified the SEU's
Anti-nuclear Campaign and program "Nuclear Safety," accepted a
resolution including a protest against the import of nuclear waste
into Russia and the unfurling of a plutonium program. The conference
agreed to send a letter with an appeal to all the committees of the EU
requesting them not to finance the completion of a second reactor in
the Khmel'nitskaya nuclear power plant and a fourth on the Rovnenskaya
plant (both in Ukraine).
At the conference it was decided that the SEU, the Radical
Movement "Rainbow Keepers" and the Union "For Chemical Safety" will
begin a cooperative campaign to protest the violation of the human
right to a healthy environment and livable conditions in the city of
Votkinsk in Udmurtiya, where the building of experimental station for
burning heavy rocket fuel has already begun.
At the conference an initiating group, "Sustainable Tourism," was
formed. The group's members received the blessing of the conference to
develop and enact the SEU's program "The Development of Sustainable
Tourism in the Member Nations of the SEU".
An agreement was accepted in the section "Publicizing the SEU's
programs and campaigns in the press" regarding cooperation between SEU
organizations and the mass media. One of the section's goals was the
formation of a system of "informational resposne" on a given event.
The working group on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) came
to the conclusion that without the cooperation of public organizations
and experts it is impossible to control the development of genetically
engineered foods, agriculture, and several other branches. Therefore
in the year 2001 an SEU campaign will be founded against the spread of
GMOs; during 2001 preparation of national and regional reports on
genetic engineering is recommended.
The program "Qualification" appeared at the conference. The
program's basic content will be the creation of a system of constant
preparation of environmental activists, for which the experience of
the Student Nature Guards (Druzhina) Movement will be used.
Setting priorities was a major part of the work of the section
"Sustainable Development." In particular, these priorities included
use of a conception of a basin approach in working with territories,
active involvement in the process "Rio+10" and the preparation of
"World Charter of Nature".
The section "Public Environmental Control" gave its presentation
with the initiative of program in the SEU framework of public
inspection in defense of the environment.
The working group "Oil Pollution of Seas," with reference to the
critical state of the Caspian Sea, Black Sea, and Sea of Azov
considers goal-oriented the development of alternative systems of oil
transport that would avoid these waters. It is fixed to offer
immediate participation in the given work.
The program "Environmental Education" has temporarily halted its
work. In the near future a new coordinator will be chosen and a new
plan will be developed. The basic idea, however, naturally will not
change in the future. The program sees the support of ecological
textbook programs in NIS schools as one of it's basic challenges, as
well as the goal-oriented attraction of youth and children to
demonstrations about environmental defense.
Conference participants spoke of the imperative need for close
cooperation and coordination of work in various fields of the SEU's
activity. It was noted that the majority of programs, campaigns, and
initiatives are tightly tied to one another, and thus the success of
their work directly depends on the effectiveness of cooperative
The following were accepted at the conference:
"Notice of the Regional Coordination of the SEU";
Priorities of the SEU Council's work for 2000-2003.
A new Council and Revision Commission were also elected.
The following were named as priorities of the SEU Council for
1. The providing of closer and perpetual cooperation between SEU
members (through program and regional coordinators).
2. The search for sources of financial support both for the SEU
as a whole and for its member branches.
3. The organization of the informational support of the SEU's and
its member's activity.
4. The organization of cooperation between the SEU and other
members of public life (the population at large, the authorities,
political parties, etc).
5. The organization of all types of support for the activities of
SEU members (legal aid, moral support, solidarity, defense).
6. The organization of work of the CCI in the interests of SEU
members and the SEU as a whole.
7. The development of the SEU's external and internal politics
(strategic planning, the development of program documents to clarify
the SEU's position, an analysis of the world situation).
8. The organization of analytical work needed for understanding
global and regional processes at work, and in turn, adequate planning
of the work of the SEU and its members.
The following are the members of the new Council:
1. Farida Kamil-kyzy Guseynova
370200 Azerbaidjan, Sumgait
5 kvartal, ul. Dostlug, d. 13/34 kv. 18
Tel. (8-10-99450) 329-93-91
2. Sviatoslav Igorevich Zabelin
121019 Russia, Moscow
Tel./Fax: (095) 124-79-34
3. Irek Ilgizarovich Ziganshin
420015 Russia, Kazan
Tel: (8432) 15-68-24 (home), 35-93-69 (work)
4. Askhat Abdurakhmanovich Kayumov
630000 Russia, Nizhny Novgorod
Tel (8312) 30-28-81
5. Sergei Vladimirovich Krichevsky
141160 Russia, Moscow Region
Zvezdny gorodok, d. 47, kv. 29
Tel (095) 526-29-67 (home)
6. Dmitry Sergeevich Rybakov
185031 Russia, Karelia
Petrozavodsk, Oktyabrsky pr.
Tel (8142) 70-31-81 (home)
7. Lev Aleksandrovich Fedorov
117291 Russia, Moscow
ul. Profsoyuznaya, d. 8, k. 2. kv. 82
Tel. (095) 129-05-96 (home)
REFERENDUM KILLED, NUCLEAR WASTES WELCOMED
Russian authorities do not care about what people think or want.
We have received several proofs for that lately. 2,5 million of
signatures is just an obstacle for nuclear bosses. As you may know
already, the Central Election Commission (CEC) has killed the
referendum that would have asked whether voters opposed the
importation of radioactive materials for storage, reprocessing or
burying. But citing numerous technical inaccuracies, the Central
Elections Commission struck off more than a fifth of the 2.5 million
signatures collected across the country this fall, leaving the
environmentalists with just over 1.873 million signatures - 127,000
short of the 2 million needed to force a referendum.
Clearly it was another step towards something that has been long
desired by the Nuclear Power Ministry - passing the amendment to
Russian environmental legislation allowing to dump spent nuclear fuel
The hearings in Russian State Duma required to pass the amendment
were several times rescheduled, due to the controversies and protests.
The Nuclear Power Ministry and Evegeny Adamov, the Minister,
personally worked hard to lure the deputies into amendement support,
Had the CEC agreed to accept at least 2 million of the collected
signatures, the hearing would have had to have been canceled, as
stipulated by the referendum law. But as the referendum was halted,
there was nothing to stop the Duma from passing Adamov's bill, which
would allow his ministry to go ahead with a deal to accept up to
20,000 tons of spent fuel from 14 countries in Asia and Europe for 50
years of storage. "The authorities do not allow people to use
democratic means to prevent Russia from being turned into a
radioactive dump," said Vladimir Slivyak, a leader of the SEU
Anti-nuclear campaign. Activists said the real reason was that the
election commission was ordered to block the referendum by the
The voting in State Duma (Russian Parliament) was finally
scheduled for December 22. However, on late December 20 it was moved
onto December 21 - to prevent the environemntalists demonstrations.
This did not, however, affect the Nuclear astroturf groups
demonstration at 10 am - right before the voting. The routine slogans
- jobs and profits is just a populistic outside of the whole nuclear
junk affair. The Ministry will get all the money from the deals, and
will, of course, spend it for the further nuclear power development.
The majority of Duma fractions said "yes" to the bill in its
first reading, despite the numerous protests and despite the
signatures collected. Thus Duma memberes do not even pretend anymore
that they work for the interests of the people who has elected them.
The bill is still to undergo chnges and to pass the second reading.
The meaning of the current events in Russia for the rest of the
world is much more dreadfull than it may seem. Not speaking of the
ethical side of nuclear states turning Russia into radioactive waste
dump, this means the further promotion of the nuclear power
development worldwide. Goverenments and corporations are getting rid
of the responsibilty for the waste their nuclear entereprises produced
already, and feel free to prodice even more without thinking of
consequences. Nice bargain offered by Russian Minatom (prices for NW
processing and storage are much lower than the worldwide) allows the
nuclear irresponsiblity to continue.
Separate issue is the safety of the territories through which the
waste would be shipped (if would) to Russia. Taken into account the
rise of the terrorism in the world and within Russia, one may say that
the whole world safety is questioned.
chairman of SEU "Nuclear safety" Program
CHAOS IN RUSSIAN GENETIC ENGINEERING ACTIVITIES
Moscow - 29 November 2000
A report released by environmental organisations today reveals
that field trials of genetically engineered (GE) crops are taking
place throughout Russia and GE foods are being approved for human
consumption, in the absence of any procedures. Although an
Inter-Agency Commission on Genetic Engineering Activities, GENCOM, was
established in 1997 to issue permits for releases of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), it operates under a cloak of secrecy and
some of its members are the same scientists that are undertaking GE
The report entitled: "Genetically Engineered Food and Crops in
Russia" and published by the Socio-Ecological Union (SEU), reveals
that at least 18 notifications for deliberate release of GMOs,
including field trials and processing/consumption have been granted.
Monsanto leads with 8 notifications for field trials of potatoes
resistant to Colorado beetle, which are being tested in 18 regions of
Russia, herbicide tolerant soybeans, maize and sugar beet.
Biosafety measures for field trials are inadequate. "Field trials
of GE apple trees and strawberries in Orel were taking place right
next to gardens growing apple trees and strawberries.
Cross-pollination could result in these home-grown fruit becoming
genetically engineered!", explained Dan Swartz, the author of the
report, published jointly with ANPED, The Northern Alliance for
Sustainability, a network of non-government organisations based in
The report reveals that the Ministry of Health has approved two
varieties of Monsanto's GE potatoes and Monsanto's Roundup Ready
(herbicide-tolerant) soybeans for human consumption, In addition, the
OECD list also includes AgrEvo's (now Aventis) GE sugar beet, approved
for processing and consumption.
"It is highly likely that GE soybeans, maize and potatoes are
already on the Russian market. The soybeans and maize are coming into
the country via commercial imports and food aid from the US", explains
Victoria Kolesnikova from SEU. "Despite a new law requiring labelling
of GE products and a Federal Register of GMO Products, we have seen
none of the products listed on the register and available on Russian
supermarket shelves labelled", she added.
The report calls on the Russian Government to introduce a
moratorium on all environmental releases of GMOs until procedures for
licensing field trials and approving the marketing of GE foods are in
place. It also calls for the declassifying of information about
genetic engineering that currently enables information to be withheld
on the grounds of state or commercial secrets. The report also demands
that the responsible institutions implement the labelling regulations
that came into force in July 2000.
For more information:
Victoria Kolesnikova, Olga Berlova, Anna Kochineva
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Iza Kruszewska, ANPED
LIVING WITH TAIGA:
TRN conference chronicles
"The Russian forest sector is a Titanic sinking to the bottom
with millions of tons of lumber and a system of governance that took
decades to form," said Aleksei Grigoriev at the opening session of the
Fifth International Conference of the Taiga Rescue Network (TRN),
"Living with the Taiga: Boreal Forests in the 21st Century." The
conference, which is being held in the Moscow suburb of Zvenigorod
between September 18-22, focuses on the most troublesome social
aspects of the coexistence of humanity and the taiga that worry world
The conference has gathered more than 250 people from various
countries, from environmental activists to scientists to tribal
leaders. The general concern that unites most of them is preserving
boreal forests in the presence of human activity, the source of life
of their children and grandchildren.
In recent years, forests have become an object of attention not
just for biologists and foresters. After all, the forest is resource
that could save the earth from the global warming and climate change.
It is forests that absorb carbon dioxide gas, which is the basic cause
of Greenhouse effect.
"We want to prove that people can gain not only from destroying
the forest. More specifically, that gain is not measured only in
money, but in everything that we receive from the forest, including
clean air and water. We searched for positive examples of how to
rationally carry out sustainable forestry, and found them here, in
Russia," said Dmitri Akesnov, one of the organizers of the conference
and a member of the Forest Team of the Social-Ecological Union.
According to the organizers, putting together a completely optimistic
conference was impossible. With the liquidation of the nature
protection structures in Russia-including the Federal Forest Service
(FFS)-hopes for the definite introduction of ecologically sound forest
use have almost completely disappeared.
The causes of the ruthless destruction of forests vary from
uncontrolled cuttings by corporations for enormous profits to the
selective sanitary cuttings foresters conduct due to the poeverty and
disorganization of forestry in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. The one
result? The forest is diappearing.
Russia already lost practically all of the oak stands in European
Russia, while the unique Ussuriskaya taiga and the relatively
undisturbed forests of the north are under the threat of extinction.
This is the reason why greens (and no longer only greens!) are
sounding the alarm. Today there are various reforestation programs,
but forests grow slowly and do not replace the things that disappear
with that which is called the real taiga-the trees that are hundreds
of years old, the unique flowers, grasses, and animals-that community
that arose over the ages. "Sure, we manage to win official protection
for certain territories. Alone, however, protection will not save.
Everything that happens around the forest is likewise very important
to the forest itself and its inhabitants. That's what ecology is:
everything is tied to everything," say the conference attenders.
In the meantime, the majority of Russian foresters cannot see the
forest for the trees, looking at it simply as a pile of timber. It
looks as though those who will represent the former forest league in
the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and answer for the protection
of the Russian forest worry only about how to cut it down faster so as
not to "lose a potential resource." Though the representatives of the
Forest Service used to offer to at least outward signs of respect,
offical representatives of the "reconstructed" MNR have completely
ignored today's international conference. Four years ago, when the
same conference was held in the Finnish border town of Kuusamo,
official foresters still came and actively participated in the
discussion, even as the scandal around the Karelian forests became
The bi-annual TRN conference is a marker, and looking back at
each one, it becomes clear how much the Russian and international
greens have managed to accomplish through their joint efforts. A row
of unique forested lands in Karelia are now protected. It is now
possible to teach forest giants, such as ENSO-Stora and UPM Kummene to
carry on a dialogue with society and fulfil society's demands. The
concept of "old growth forests" - that is those that were not planted
by people and which are extremely valuable for several reasons - is
now respected. Earlier, forestry workers would act as though they did
not understand at all.
For more information:
SEU Forest Campaign
LACK OF CONTROL IS WHAT SOME INSTITUTIONS BENEFIT FROM
After the TRN conference SEU Forest campaign started a new
information fight for Russian forest. After the elimination of State
Environment Committee and Forest Service Russian forests are supposed
to become a fossil.
"Proposed merge of these institutions with Ministry of Nature
Resources will make any efforts to interact with forest control bodies
even harder that it was before. Former Forest Service had over 200
thousand people in staff including over 70 thousand specialists of
forest protection. New Forest department within a ministry will likely
have less than 5 thousand! No one knows still what a new forest policy
will be like. Ministry keeps silence ignoring all the requests" -
Comments Alexey Grigoriev, SEU forest expert. "Budget of forest
protection activities is also a question. The whole ministry in 2001
will have around 150 millions of dollars while forest service used to
have 250 millions of dollars before the ruble crisis of 1998. It makes
us think that ministry will get additional money from somewhere else:
Illegal cutting of the 1 group forest is also a big problem all
over the country and in Moscow region in particular. There forests are
most valuable in terms of environment and according to the Russian law
all the activities conducted in such forests are to pass a state
environmental impact assessment at the federal level, which has never
been done for the last 5 years since this legislation is in place. All
the permissions to transform forestlands to non-forest lands (when one
is allowed to cut trees) were issued by the national government. The 1
group forests have being cut mostly for the elite dachas construction
purposes. Russian NGOs won several cases in the Russian Supreme Court
against the government but it didn't stop the process of illegal
According to statistics the amount of forests in Moscow region
increases every year. But in reality these "optimistic" numbers
include abandoned agricultural areas being covered by bushes and wick
For more information:
SEU Forest Campaign
MURAVIEVKA, THE SEU PARK
Muravevsky Park is located in the Russian Far East, in the
Amurskaya Oblast. It is the first nature park in Russia since 1917
that is not owned and operated by the government. Instead, the
property was rented from the government on a fifty-year lease. More
than 200 species of birds live in its 13,000 acres of wetlands and
For many years Sergei Smirensky, the director of Muravevsky Park,
dreamed of creating conditions in which people and wildlife could live
together in harmony, and also to test out new technologies and
developments in protection of ecosystems, environmental education, and
sustainable development. The nature of the Amursky Krai greatly
impressed Sergei, and in 1991, working in cooperation with the
International Crane Foundation (ICF), he launched the Socio-Ecological
Union's Amur program in hopes of realizing his dream. In 1993,
Muravevsky Park leased 11,000 hectares for 50 years for the
development of sustainable land use. At that point, Sergei had nothing
else to start with but well-intended ideas and enthusiasm.
"We came to realize rather quickly that abandoning certain
projects and simply protecting certain valuable sites was not a
solution to the problem,- says Sergei Smirensky, the park director.
Our plan to create a park for sustainable use of natural resources is
an attempt to solve a problem. We're trying to understand how to use
the natural resources of a unique territory. When we speak of
sustainable development and sustainable use of natural resources, we
mean not only stability for today and tomorrow, but for a much greater
length of time. Stability demands attention to three factors:
ecological, economical, and social. We gave ourselves a task including
not only a study of the protection of the territory, but also the
renewal and management of the territory. One of the challenges was
introducing forms of sustainable use of natural resources, such as
agriculture, ecotourism, and the sale of local handicrafts.
Now the park is one of the centers of life in the Russian Far
East. As Sergei Smirensky says, "Wedding parties come here for
photographs, just as they would visit a war memorial". The territory
of the park is quite diverse, including meadows, bush, lakes, and
tracts of forest, but most of the park is occupied by marshes. The
park protects a habitat for the white crane (Grus leucogeranus),
white-naped crane (Grus vipio), and Japanese crane (Grus japonensis),
as well as other migrating birds. Since the moment the park was formed
in 1993, the population of rare birds has doubled. Hundreds of local
children and teachers have attended summer camps in the park and
become passionate advocates of the park.
Even five years ago few people believed that the first
non-governmental park would be able to develop according to plan,
especially considering that an integral part of that plan was the
implementation of self-sustaining and ecologically clean agriculture.
Muravevsky Park is working on a model program to introduce this kind
of agriculture. The park's deputy director Sergei Shalagin, a
qualified specialist and man of the soil, is leading the program.
Under his direction, soy has been cultivated in the park for several
years. This year, soy was sown on a 120-hectare tract of land that the
local region handed over to the park expressly for this purpose.
Although herbicides and chemical fertilizers are not used in the park,
crops are fruitful, and the park is able to subsist financially on the
profits made by selling the harvest, without any outside sources of
A model farm was set up, where workers tested new varieties of
soy and other grains. They obtained and repaired farm equipment, and
completed construction of a granary; work on the construction of a
heated garage has already begun. Workers are also preparing a business
plan for an animal farm and the receipt of an international
certificate of the environmental quality of their products. At the
same time, they are studying the soil in areas under agriculture for
long-term future environmental monitoring.
One of our challenges was to build an economically effective,
self-sufficient system, says Sergei Smirensky, And it's not even
because we don't like to ask for money (although sometimes we have to)
because in many cases grant money initiates from the ruin of nature.
The fact is that there are many ways to earn money. Right now we are
self-sufficient. We have electricity in the park; our refrigerators,
computers, and printers run on energy from solar panels. We're just
finishing the construction step and are organizing various materials
from our experience, which we hope will be of interest and help to
many. We hope that next year we can begin bringing people to the park
and having more discussions.
According to Sergei Smirensky, many of the problems of protected
areas, such as poaching and fires, are simply provoked by the stern
line between the nature reserve's employees and the local population.
Park employees decided to try to combine the interests of the region
that they took under protection and the interests of the residents of
the region and oblast. The local population is now proud of their
wetlands and, naturally, does not start fires. Even poaching fell
significantly. All of this became possible thanks to the model
programs of the park and friends of the park. Relations between the
park and the local population continue to grow noticeably warmer.
Muravevsky Park's environmental education program played a large role
in this transition. The park carries out several international
programs of children's education. Every year summer camps where
children can study and have recreation free of charge are held with
the help of overseas colleagues. At the present time, park officials
are working to found a Teen Social Adaptation Center, for which a
two-story building is almost complete.
Park workers are also preparing informational materials and texts
on the methodology they used. These materials can be used for regular
classes with schoolchildren and park visitors. Workers have prepared
expositions and led seminars devoted to the classics of global and
Russian ecology, hunting management, and nature protection. One of the
park employees leads a year-round lesson in home economics in various
classes in a school in the village of Kuropatino. An exposition of
handicrafts was held, and the best works were sent to a contest in the
United States. The park held three sessions of a summer camp and
seminar in ecology, agriculture, and artistic upbringing. More than
180 students and teachers from the Tambovsky Region (including more
than 30 kindergarten teachers from the village of Kresovozdvizhenka),
the province of Kheilingtszyan (People's Republic of China), and the
State of Wisconsin (USA) took part in these projects. Four
summerhouses with bunk beds were built specially for the camp, a
soccer field was set up, as was a place to hold lessons. This was the
first time the park had welcomed a group of teachers, students, nature
reserve workers, and state farm workers from the People's Republic of
China. In turn, this was the Chinese delegation's first opportunity
to take part in an environmental camp. Indeed, the interest our
Chinese neighbors took in the park and its programs was so great that
an international agreement was reached between China and the Amurskaya
Oblast to hold cooperative environmental meetings and to create an
exchange for students and teachers between 2001-2005.
During the summer camp, six teachers of agriculture led classes
in teaching children to choose directions and methods for instituting
rural agriculture on the basis of the study of soil, climate, and the
local and world market of agricultural products. The students received
a general picture of the advantage of cooperative forms of action,
actively took part in the development of organizational forms of the
youth organization ?Future Farmers of Russia. After ten
Russian-American environmental camps had been held, 460 children
became interested in nature and its protection. An understanding and
love of nature are the hardest things to teach, especially to local
children. Poverty, depression, alcoholism and crime are a way of life
in these regions. Children need to understand that the hope for a
better future lies within themselves. The park helps them to find
hope, and the environmental camp solidifies it. More than 50 American
elementary, middle, and high school teachers, as well college students
have all visited the camp. The Americans, who tend to know Siberia
more as a place of exile and punishment, returned home with a
different view of this place, and with the memory of people striving
for a brighter future.
Sergey & Elena Smirenski
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