|You see things and you say 'Why?' But I dream thing that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'. - Geroge Bernard Shaw|
No. 52, 17 March 1993
RUSSIA YELTSIN CONDEMNS CONGRESS AGAIN, MAY REPLACE MINISTERS. The Russian Congress of People's Deputies is trying to "restore the communist regime," President Yeltsin told reporters on 16 March at a news conference with his French counterpart Francois Mitterrand. Yeltsin said he still does not know how to respond to the damage inflicted by the latest session of the Congress on Russia's political stability. He was quoted by Russian and Western agencies as disclosing at the same press conference that he intends to replace as many as five members of the government. He said the replacements were planned long before the Congress. Yeltsin said they were due to the "unsatisfactory performance" of certain ministers, but did not identify them by name. At the Congress, the parliamentary speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov had called for the replacement of the Deputy Prime Minister responsible for privatization, Anatolii Chubais, and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev. Vera Tolz CIVIC UNION WILL SUPPORT CHERNOMYRDIN. Arkadii Volsky, chairman of the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs and co-leader of the Civic Union, told Pravda on 16 March that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin should alter the composition of his cabinet in accordance with the new economic course he wants to take now that the Cabinet of Ministers has received additional powers after the Congress. Volsky said he would welcome the inclusion of more "specialists" in the cabinet. He stated that the Civic Union must now support Chernomyrdin. The People's Party of Free Russia, led by Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoi, also praised the widening of the cabinet's powers and issued a statement calling for earlier presidential and parliamentary elections, ITAR-TASS reported the same day. Contrary to Volsky, Rutskoi's party favors President Boris Yeltsin's idea of a referendum. Alexander Rahr GERASHCHENKO APPOINTED TO THE CABINET. On 16 March, President Yeltsin signed a decree on the expansion of his cabinet, in line with the resolution of the Congress of People's Deputies last week, ITAR-TASS reported. Those appointed to the cabinet were the heads of the Russian Central Bank, the Russian Federal Property Fund, the State Statistics Committee and the Russian Federation Pension Fund. In addition to his seat in the cabinet, Russian Central Bank Chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has been appointed to the Presidium of the Council of Ministers, or inner cabinet. Keith Bush STATUS STILL UNCLEAR. The decision adopted by the Congress of People's Deputies had stipulated that the above officials could become members of the Council of Ministers while at the same time remaining accountable to parliament. The ambiguity of this dual subordination was illustrated by an interview that Gerashchenko gave to Izvestiya on 16 March, the same day as his new formal appointment. He said, inter alia, that a system whereby the same body prints money and spends it cannot be efficient. Moreover, the doubtful validity of presidential decrees was underscored by the fact that Gerashchenko had already been granted cabinet rank by a presidential decree last November. Keith Bush YELTSIN PLANNING REFERENDUM? THE RUSSIAN PRESIDENT'S PRESS SERVICE TOLD ITAR-TASS ON 16 MARCH THAT FOLLOWING THE CONGRESS, YELTSIN WAS RECEIVING UP TO 3,000 LETTERS FROM CITIZENS DAILY, ALMOST ALL EXPRESSING SUPPORT OF THE PRESIDENT'S POSITION AND CRITICAL OF THE RESULTS OF THE CONGRESS. The letters apparently call on Yeltsin to show "firmness in defending democracy and reforms," and object in particular to the Congress' decision "to deny the people the right to express their view through a referendum," the report said. Immediately after the Congress, Sergei Filatov the head of Yeltsin's administration, had told a meeting of "Democratic Russia" deputies that the president intended to go ahead with a plebiscite, which would be organized by the existing government commission for the referendum, a report in Rossiiskaya gazeta of 16 March said. Wendy Slater KOZYREV DEMANDS MINORITIES COMMISSIONER. Speaking at a closed meeting of foreign ministers of the Council of Baltic Sea States on 16 March, Andrei Kozyrev said he would not sign a communique with the other Baltic states unless they appointed a commissioner to protect the rights of ethnic minorities in the Baltic. Kozyrev likened the plight of Russian minorities in the Baltic to the situation in the former Yugoslavia. The foreign ministers of Estonia and Latvia, Trivimi Velliste and Georgs Andrejevs said such a commission was unnecessary, Western agencies reported. Suzanne Crow KOZYREV ELABORATES ON BALTIC PRESENCE REMARKS. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev attempted to clarify statements he made on 15 March in Baltiisk about the need for Russia to maintain "an imposing presence" in the Baltic Sea region. According to a report carried by Radio Helsinki, Kozyrev denied that he was trying to make a case for keeping troops in the Baltic states. Kozyrev said he was speaking only about forces in Kaliningrad Oblast, which, according to Kozyrev, were needed to protect it against German and other countries' claims. On 16 March, Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar expressed concern at Kozyrev's statements made in Baltiisk and suggested a connection between Kozyrev's remarks and the political situation in Russia. Latvian Foreign Minister Georgs Andrejevs also voiced concern, BNS reported on 16 March. Suzanne Crow FRENCH PRESIDENT VISTS RUSSIA. French President Francois Mitterrand and Foreign Minister Roland Dumas, on a one-day visit to Moscow on 16 March, held talks with their counterparts, Boris Yeltsin and Andrei Kozyrev on ways to support reform in Russia, Western assistance, and the situation in the former Yugoslavia. (Kozyrev rushed from Helsinki to Moscow to attend the meetings.) Mitterrand called for an early meeting of major industrialized nations, perhaps in April, to discuss aid to Russia, and Yeltsin made a plea for urgent financial assistance from the West, arguing that without such help Russia could soon be "on the edge of the abyss." In a joint statement, the two presidents expressed support for the Vance-Owen peace plan for Bosnia-Herzegovina and demanded an immediate ceasefire, Western agencies and ITAR-TASS reported. Suzanne Crow IMF PROPOSAL TO HELP RUSSIA. The International Monetary Fund is promoting the creation of additional Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to fund support for Russia, according to Reuters on 16 March. By issuing SDRs to its 175 member nations, the IMF would pump up global currency reserves. The richer nations could then return the SDRs to be placed in a trust fund to lend to countries that are attempting to stabilize their economies and carry out radical reforms. Russia would be a prime candidate. Potential Western donor nations would thus not have to allocate aid from their national budgets. One unnamed source was quoted as saying: "This is sort of magic, but it warrants serious consideration." Keith Bush TRANSCAUCASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA YELTSIN DECREE ON CAUCASUS MILITARY STRUCTURES; COSSACKS. Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on 15 March ordering a reorganization of existing Russian military structures in the North Caucasus region of Russia. According to a vaguely worded ITAR-TASS report on 16 March, the decree dissolved the Caucasus Border Forces District and created in its place a North Caucasus Border Forces District, headquartered at Stavropol. It also ordered the formation of what were described as general purpose mobile forces which, apparently, will initially act as "immediate reaction forces." These units will be drawn from the forces of the North Caucasus Military District. The decree also contained provisions on the status and functioning of Cossack units in the army, the Interior Ministry, and the Security Ministry. An interdepartmental commission on Cossack affairs, attached to the Council of Ministers, was established. Stephen Foye ABKHAZIAN FORCES LAUNCH OFFENSIVE AGAINST SUKHUMI. Abkhazian troops launched an offensive against Georgian forces located in the city of Sukhumi on 16 March. That evening ITAR-TASS reported that the front line had stabilized but on the morning of 17 March Russian TV's "Vesti" news program reported that intense fighting was continuing. The report showed Abkhazian troops supported by T-54/55 tanks apparently advancing within the city's boundaries. Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze traveled to Sukhumi on 16 March to conduct meetings with military commanders. "Vesti" reported that bombs had fallen near the building where the meeting was being held, but no reports on possible damage or casualties had been received. According to Ostankino TV's "Novosti" news broadcast of 17 March, Shevardnadze is considering a full-scale mobilization in Georgia and will make a decision on the issue within a day or two. Shevardnadze claimed that the Russian army had concentrated a large amount of combat equipment at the Eshera base located near Sukhumi and stated that the Georgian military had ordered the Russian base commander to withdraw all his personnel, leaving the equipment for the Georgian forces. He also accused Russian forces of supporting the Abkhazian attack, a charge which has been denied by both Russian and Abkhazian officials. The Russian commander of forces in Gudauta has reportedly been summoned to discuss the situation with Georgian leaders. John Lepingwell ALIEV IN TEHRAN. Nakhichevan parliament chairman Geidar Aliev flew to Tehran on 16 March on a two day official visit, Reuters reported quoting IRNA. Aliev was met at Tehran airport by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and expressed thanks for "considerable" financial assistance in overcoming the breakdown in food supplies to Nakhichevan resulting from the ongoing fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Liz Fuller TAJIK STATE PROSECUTOR REQUESTS BANNING OF OPPOSITION. Tajikistan's State Prosecutor has asked the country's Supreme Court to ban the four major groups that constituted the anti-Communist opposition coalition in 1992, ITAR-TASS reported on 16 March. The organizations to be prohibited are the Democratic Party of Tajikistan, the Islamic Renaissance Party, the Tajik nationalist movement Rastokhez, and the Lali Badakhshan Movement, which seeks greater autonomy for Gorno-Badakhshan. The State Prosecutor, Makhmadsaid Salekhov, claims that all four groups had violated their own charters and engaged in terrorist activity. He also blamed them for the 1992 civil war, as has become the practice of the present Tajik government. Arrest warrants have been issued for some of the leaders of the Democratic and Islamic Renaissance Parties, but Rastokhez and Lali Badakhshan have been largely ignored by the Dushanbe government. Their inclusion in the list of organizations to be banned indicates that the government intends to silence all effective opposition. Bess Brown CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE INTERIOR MINISTERS FAIL TO AGREE ON REFUGEE PACT. Senior officials from six East European countries failed to reach a multilateral accord on how to cope with changes in German law concerning the transfer of refugees to so-called safe-countries. At the conference, which took place on 16 March in Prague, the interior ministers of Poland, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia agreed instead to work out a network of bilateral agreements. Pending amendments to Germany's liberal asylum laws will allow authorities to send back foreigners who are denied asylum to the country through which they crossed into Germany. Experts believe that this will have serious consequences for Poland and the Czech Republic, because most of the 440,000 people who applied for asylum in Germany last year entered through these countries. -Jan Obrman PREPARATIONS FOR ESTONIAN-LATVIAN FREE TRADE ACCORD. At their meeting on 15 March at a castle near Limbazi, Latvia, Estonian and Latvian leaders discussed economic reforms, cooperation in defense matters, security of borders, and the relationship of the Latvian lats to the Estonian kroon. The prime ministers also reached an agreement on bilateral free trade between their two countries since earlier trade accords are inoperative. Estonian premier Mart Laar noted that though it is not possible to conclude a trilateral free trade agreement among the three Baltic States at this time, such an accord would, nonetheless, be concluded between Estonia and Latvia, Diena and BNS reported on 16 March. -Dzintra Bungs LITHUANIA, BELARUS SIGN FREE TRADE TREATY. On 16 March in Vilnius Belarus Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich and his acting Lithuanian counterpart Bronislovas Lubys signed treaties on free trade and economic cooperation for 1993, Radio Lithuania reports. Kebich also met with President Algirdas Brazauskas and Seimas chairman Ceslovas Jursenas. Belarus intends to purchase 4-billion kilowatt hours of electricity, fertilizers, electrical equipment, timber products, and consumer goods from Lithuania, which in turn will buy tractors, trucks, motor oils, chemical products, and raw materials for light industry. Although Lithuania had signed economic cooperation treaties with seven other former USSR republics, this is its first free-trade treaty, in which the sole exception is agricultural products. -Saulius Girnius FREE TRADE ZONE BETWEEN CZECH REPUBLIC AND SLOVENIA. Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus told journalists after a government meeting on 16-March that the Czech Republic will sign a free trade-zone agreement during Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek's official visit to Prague scheduled for 6 May. CTK quoted Klaus as having said that the agreement will go far beyond the provisions of the free-trade agreement among the Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia). He added that the agreement between the two republics will serve as a good illustration for Prague's willingness to support integration efforts in Central and Eastern Europe. -Jan Obrman ROMANIA, CROATIA SIGN COOPERATION ACCORD. Rompres said on 16 March that Croatian Foreign Minister Zdenko Skrabalo signed an agreement in Bucharest, at the end of his visit to the Romanian capital. The agreement establishes a permanent political dialogue and provides for cooperation in international bodies such as the CSCE. The two countries also agreed to exchange visits of their leaders. -Michael Shafir ESTONIA TO LEAD BALTIC REGIONAL COUNCIL. At a meeting in Helsinki on 16 March Estonia was unanimously elected to act as the leader of the Baltic Sea States Council, BNS reports. Founded in March 1992 in Copenhagen on the initiative of Germany and Denmark, the council was envisaged as a forum for addressing issues of common concern and not dealt with specifically by other international organizations. The council unites Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. -Dzintra Bungs ARE SERBS BOMBING EASTERN BOSNIA? ON 17-MARCH THE LOS ANGELES TIMES AND THE BBC QUOTED UN OFFICIALS IN ZAGREB THE PREVIOUS DAY AS SAYING THAT THREE LIGHT PLANES HAD BOMBED TWO MUSLIM VILLAGES ON 11 MARCH. The report did not identify the nationality of the aircraft, but noted that they flew off in the direction of Serbia. There have been over 400 reported violations by all sides of the UN's no-fly zone over Bosnia since that zone was declared in October 1992, but this appears to be the first documented case of a bombing. On 15 March the BBC reported from eastern Bosnia that Muslim helicopters evacuated injured fighters and that the Serbs received support from aircraft coming from Montenegro. If the latter report is true and if the bomb-droppers did indeed fly to Serbia, these facts would once again show the link between Serbian forces inside and outside of Bosnia. The Serbs on either side of the border deny that such a tie exists, but the conglomeration of Serbian forces throughout the former Yugoslavia have shown a remarkable ability since starting the war in 1991 to pursue a uniform set of strategic goals aimed at setting up a greater Serb state. -Patrick Moore STILL NO RELIEF FOR SREBRENICA. International media said on 17 March that Serb forces in eastern Bosnia continued to block a UN convoy bound for the besieged town despite promises of safe passage from Serb political and military leaders. Serb commander Gen. Ratko Mladic also failed to show up for a meeting on 16 March with UN commander Gen. Philippe Morillon, who remains intent on staying in Srebrenica until the convoy arrives. The siege of that mainly Muslim town is in its eleventh month. -Patrick Moore POLISH COALITION TO COMPROMISE ON MASS PRIVATIZATION. Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka chaired a two-hour meeting of the government coalition on 16 March in an effort to muster full support for the much delayed "mass privatization" program. The final Sejm vote on mass privatization is scheduled for 18 March. The coalition's liberals reluctantly yielded to pressure from the conservative Christian National Union to amend the program to include children among the recipients of shares in mutual investment funds. Privatization Minister Janusz Lewandowski said this amendment would reduce the value of shares and slow the program's implementation, but would not destroy its basic economic sense. He distributed "crib sheets" to guide coalition members through the 60 proposed amendments to be voted on 18 March, PAP reports. The compromise on mass privatization convinced the Christian National Union to support the government's request for the right to issue decrees, which is now scheduled for an initial Sejm debate in two weeks' time. -Louisa Vinton POLAND BEGINS MILITARY EXERCISES. On 16-March Poland began its largest military maneuvers since the collapse of communism, Polish TV reports. Some 5,000 soldiers, 100 tanks, 100 airplanes, and 60 helicopters are taking part in the exercises-code-named "Maple '93"-which are being held over four days in the Mazury lake region. The TV news noted with some concern that each tank round costs 4 million zloty ($250) and predicted that only one antiaircraft missile would be fired because each costs 800-million zloty ($50,000). Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz countered that "without exercises the army loses its combat readiness and thus, in spite of budgetary difficulties, we must devote resources to training; the army cannot be an army in a can." The 1993 budget allocates 6 trillion zloty ($375 million), or 19% of the defense budget, for training. President Lech Walesa is scheduled to observe the maneuvers on 19 March. -Louisa Vinton ANDREJCAK NAMED SLOVAK DEFENSE MINISTER. Imrich Andrejcak, who was Czechoslovakia's last defense minister, was named first Slovak defense minister by President Michal Kovac, Slovak TV reported on 16 March. Andrejcak, 52, was a professional soldier (colonel general) before he entered his political career in 1990. He was member of the CPCS between 1960 and 1989, but has not joined any political grouping since. It is widely believed, however, that he has close ties to the ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar who nominated him for the post. At a press conference after his naming, Andrejcak told journalists that he favored the creation of a professional army but that any such plans will have to be postponed due to the lack of financial means. He added that the question of whether Slovakia should join NATO will not be an issue until Slovakia meets certain political, military, and economic conditions. He also indicated his willingness to send a Slovak Army unit to the former Yugoslavia as part of the UN peace-keeping effort. -Jan Obrman HUNGARIAN MONEY TRANSFERS TO MOSCOW NO CRIME. The Chief Prosecutor's office said in a statement issued on 16 March that leading officials of the Hungarian National Bank and the communist party did not commit a crime when they transferred millions of dollars to Moscow between 1950 and 1987, MTI reports. The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, channeled at least $14 million to a solidarity fund set up to sponsor communist parties worldwide. The statement said that under regulations in effect at the time the head of the Hungarian National Bank and his deputy were authorized to transfer foreign currency to HSWP. Investigations were launched last March. -Edith Oltay HUNGARIAN COURT RULES ON MEDIA. On 16-March the Constitutional Court confirmed an earlier ruling that a resolution, dating from the communist era, that places Hungarian Radio and TV under government supervision is to stay in effect until a law on the media is enacted by parliament, MTI reports. In June 1992 the court ruled that the resolution was unconstitutional, and set November 1992 as the deadline for enacting a law on the media. The media law still has not been passed, however, because of disagreements between the ruling coalition and opposition parties; it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The court emphasized that it is not the placing of radio and TV under government supervision that was unconstitutional but the fact that there are currently no laws to ensure freedom of expression. The court again called on the parliament to enact a law on the media. -Edith Oltay BULGARIA SPEEDS UP LAND REFORM. Presenting the latest figures on the progress of land reform on 16 March, officials of the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture said former owners of farm land are now receiving their property back at a faster pace than under the previous government. Dimitar Dinkov, who is directing the reform, told BTA that some 20% of the land is expected to have been restored by the end of March, as opposed to 10% in late December. As one of the key problems at present, Dinkov mentioned the lack of documents proving ownership rights and the unwillingness of local authorities to implement the reform. The costs of further delays in distributing land are becoming increasingly clear to the government, which on 4 March felt compelled to announce a ban on the export of grain. -Kjell Engelbrekt LABOR UNREST IN ROMANIA. Thousands demonstrated in Bucharest on 16 March to protest falling living standards, and smaller demonstrations were held in other cities as well, local and Western agencies report. The protests, organized this time by the National Union Bloc, which represents workers in a wide range of industries, follow similar demonstrations earlier this month. The demonstrators left letters specifying their demands at the seats of the presidency, the government, and the parliament. -Michael Shafir MELESCANU IN LONDON. Romanian Foreign Minister Theodor Melescanu is expected to discuss possible compensation for his country as a result of losses produced by the embargo against rump Yugoslavia, an RFE/RL correspondent reports. Melescanu is meeting Britain's foreign secretary Douglas Hurd on 17-March. A spokesman at the Romanian embassy in London said it is estimated Romania has lost $7 billion. A British spokesman said that the agenda will also include Romania's relations with the European Community and with the West in general. -Michael Shafir LEBED ON "RED ARMY" AS PEACEKEEPER. Lt.-Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, commander of Russia's 14th Army in Moldova, told Ostankino TV on 14 March that the Dniester conflict and other conflicts in the former USSR "are being sorted out by the workers'-and-peasants' Red Army," and that the honor of his officers would not permit them to leave Moldova until the status and borders of the "Dniester republic" are guaranteed. He again urged that the "Dniester republic" join the Russian Federation in a relationship similar to that of Finland to the Russian Empire. -Vladimir Socor MOLDOVA INTERESTED IN FOREIGN BIDS FOR DANUBE PORT. Moldova intends to build a port at a cost of $40 million for ships of up to 20,000 tons at Giurgiulesti on its one-kilometer-long stretch of the maritime Danube, government officials have announced in a series of recent statements. The first of the five planned facilities will be an oil terminal for receiving petroleum from the Middle Eastern. Moldova will solicit foreign financing and foreign designs for the port, according to officials cited by Basapress -Vladimir Socor UKRAINIAN-RUSSIAN RELATIONS DETERIORATING. Ukrainian officials and Western diplomats in Kiev are quoted by the Financial Times of 17 March as saying that a new freeze in Ukrainian-Russian relations is likely. A Ukrainian Foreign Ministry official told the newspaper that conservatives have taken over the Russian foreign policy establishment and are trying to bring Ukraine back under Russian "hegemony." Western diplomats are said to be concerned about this trend, citing Russian "warnings" to East European capitals not to develop ties with Ukraine because they would soon be "downgraded to consular sections." -Roman Solchanyk PROPOSALS FOR NEW GOVERNMENT, BANK OF LITHUANIA CHAIRMAN. On 16 March President Algirdas Brazauskas issued a decree confirming the composition of the new government, Radio Lithuania reports. The Seimas has to approve the cabinet along with the program of the new prime minister Adolfas Slezevicius within 15 days. There are three new ministers: energy-Algimantas Vladas Stasiukynas, forestry-Gintautas Kavalcikas, and health-Jurgis Bredikis; Algimantas Matulevicius's post of minister without portfolio was abolished. Brazauskas also presented his candidate for chairman of the Bank of Lithuania, Romualdas Visakavicius, the current chairman of the Litimpex Bank, one of the first commercial banks in Vilnius. -Saulius Girnius TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF LATVIAN SHIPPING. Verners Gabranovs told BNS on 11 March that the commercial company "Latvian Shipping" is in a precarious situation owing to unpaid Soviet debts worth $74.5 million. The company agreed to assume the debts in return for the delivery of natural gas and oil of equivalent value. The company was not able to realize these resources in due time and has enlisted the help of the Industry and Energy Resources Ministry. In the meantime debt repayments are overdue and the company's ships could be seized and auctioned off. BNS also reports about "pirates" attacking a Latvian freighter in the Colombian port of Turbo on 5 March; attempted attacks on the ship had been reported during previous voyages to Turbo. Despite these problems, Ventspils harbor will be reconstructed to meet European standards, possibly with the help of Estonian and Dutch firms , according to Olafs Berkis, director of Venoil, a Latvian-British joint venture, so that fuels can be transported more efficiently. Venoil is also working on a quota agreement for oil from Kazakhstan, BNS reported on 13 March. -Dzintra Bungs LITHUANIA, DENMARK SIGN NUCLEAR SAFETY AGREEMENT. On 16 March in Copenhagen Lithuanian Energy Minister Leonas Asmantas and Danish Interior Minister Birte Weiss signed an intergovernmental agreement on exchange of information and cooperation in the field of nuclear safety and protection against radiation, Radio Lithuania reports. Lithuania is seeking similar agreements with Scandinavian and other interested European governments. -Saulius Girnius [As of 1200 CET] Compiled by Wendy Slater and Charles Trumbull THE RFE/RL DAILY REPORT IS PRODUCED BY THE RFE/RL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (A DIVISION OF RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, INC.) with the assistance of the RFE/RL News and Current Affairs Division (NCA). The report is available by electronic mail via LISTSERV (RFERL-L@UBVM.CC.BUFFALO.EDU), on the Sovset' computer bulletin board, by fax, and by postal mail. 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