Story by: SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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August 28, 2014

Mons, BELGIUM – NATO released new satellite images on Thursday, 28 August 2014, that show Russian combat forces engaged in military operations inside the sovereign territory of Ukraine. The images, captured in late August, depict Russian self-propelled artillery units moving in a convoy through the Ukrainian countryside and then preparing for action by establishing firing positions in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine.

Dutch Brigadier General Nico Tak, director of the Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre (CCOMC), Allied Command Operations said the images confirmed what NATO and its Allies had been seeing for weeks from other sources.

“Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine,” said Brigadier General Tak. “The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory,” he said.

These latest images provide concrete examples of Russian activity inside Ukraine, but are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the overall scope of Russian troop and weapons movements.

“We have also detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defence systems, artillery, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Brigadier General Tak. “The presence of these weapons along with substantial numbers of Russian combat troops inside Ukraine make the situation increasingly grave,” he said.

Also released were images showing substantial activity inside Russia in areas adjacent to the border with Ukraine. NATO believes this activity is being conducted in direct support to forces operating inside Ukraine, and is part of a highly coordinated and destabilising strategy.

“Russia is reinforcing and resupplying separatist forces in a blatant attempt to change the momentum of the fighting, which is currently favouring the Ukrainian military,” Brigadier General Tak said. “Russia’s ultimate aim is to alleviate pressure on separatist fighters in order to prolong this conflict indefinitely, which would result in further tragedy for the people of Eastern Ukraine,” he added.

The source of the images is an independent firm named Digital Globe. The images have not been altered or changed by NATO. Additional information has been added to identify locations, dates and equipment. DigitalGlobe images can be independently verified: http://www.digitalglobe.com

Release of Satellite Imagery – 28 August 2014

Image #1 provided by Digital Globe

Image #1 provided by Digital Globe

Image 1 shows Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, well inside territory controlled by Russian separatists. The image was captured on 21 August 2014. There is confidence the equipment is Russian, since Ukrainian units have not yet penetrated this far into separatist controlled territory.

Image #2 provided by Digital Globe

Image #2 provided by Digital Globe

Image 2 shows Russian self-propelled artillery units set up in firing positions near Krasnodon, Ukraine. They are supported by logistical vehicles which are likely carrying extra ammunition and supplies. This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers. Russian artillery systems like these have recently shelled Ukrainian positions outside the city of Luhansk in conjunction with a separatist counteroffensive to attempt to break the Ukrainian siege of the city.

Image #3 provided by Digital Globe

Image #3 provided by Digital Globe

Image 3 includes two pictures (left and right) and shows a military deployment site on the Russian side of the border, near Rostov-on-Don. This location is approximately 31 miles or 50 kilometres from the Dovzhansky, Ukraine border crossing.
 
The image on the left was captured on 19 June 2014 and shows the area to be mostly empty at this time. The image on the right was taken two months later on 20 August 2014 and shows the same location. Russian main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, cargo trucks and tented accommodations can all be clearly seen. This is one example of the multiple encampments that Russia has positioned near its border with Eastern Ukraine. Many of these forces are deployed within a few kilometers of Ukraine, and are capable of attacking with little warning, and could potentially overwhelm and push-back Ukrainian units. Russia has also moved significant numbers of combat aircraft and helicopters to airfields along the border. Russian unmanned aircraft routinely cross into Ukrainian airspace.
 
Some equipment from these locations is moved across the border and is used to resupply and equip separatist forces operating in Ukraine. For months, Russia has provided separatist fighters with heavy equipment in the form of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers. Air defense systems have also been provided to separatists, even following the downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17.
Image #4 provided by Digital Globe

Image #4 provided by Digital Globe

Image 4, captured on 23 July 2014, depicts what are probably six Russian 153mm 2S19 self-propelled guns located in Russia near Kuybyshevo. This site is situated 4 miles, or 6.5 kilometres, south of the Ukraine border, near the village of Chervonyi Zhovten. The guns are pointed north, directly towards Ukrainian territory (see North indicator on image). See image 5 for an overview of where these guns are situated in relation to Ukrainian territory.
Image #5 provided by Digital Globe

Image #5 provided by Digital Globe

Image 5 shows a wider overview including the position of the self-propelled guns from image 4. Note the North indicator on this image, and remember that the guns are orientated in this location. It is clear that from this location, it would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory. This is clearly NOT an exercise; these guns are being used to support separatist forces operating in the territory of Ukraine.

Posted by: Office of the Spokesperson, U.S. Department of State
July 14, 2014
Mortar Attack in Luhansk, Ukraine on July 14, 2014

Mortar Attack in Luhansk, Ukraine on July 14, 2014

The United States’ goal throughout the crisis in Ukraine has been to support a democratic Ukraine that is stable, unified, secure both politically and economically, and able to determine its own future. Therefore, we support ongoing dialogue among the foreign ministers from Ukraine, Germany, France, and Russia to work toward a sustainable ceasefire by all parties in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine that would build toward a lasting peace. We should emphasize, however, that our ultimate goal is not just a temporary halt to violence. We want Russia to stop destabilizing Ukraine and occupying Crimea, a part of Ukraine’s territory, and allow all of the people of Ukraine to come together to make their own decisions about their country’s future through a democratic political process.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has proposed a detailed peace plan that includes a promise of amnesty for separatists who laid down their arms voluntarily, and who are not guilty of capital crimes, decentralization of powers within Ukraine, and protection of the Russian language. He also implemented a unilateral ten-day ceasefire on June 20 to create room for a political solution, which unfortunately was not reciprocated by the separatists and their Russian backers.

While Russia says it seeks peace, its actions do not match its rhetoric. We have no evidence that Russia’s support for the separatists has ceased. In fact, we assess that Russia continues to provide them with heavy weapons, other military equipment and financing, and continues to allow militants to enter Ukraine freely. Russia denies this, just as it denied its forces were involved in Crimea — until after the fact. Russia has refused to call for the separatists to lay down their arms, and continues to mass its troops along the Ukrainian border. Many self-proclaimed “leaders” of the separatists hail from Russia and have ties to the Russian government. This all paints a telling picture of Russia’s continued policy of destabilization in eastern Ukraine.

Here are the facts:

  • Russia continues to accumulate significant amounts of equipment at a deployment site in southwest Russia. This equipment includes tanks of a type no longer used by the Russian military, as well as armored vehicles, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, and air defense systems. Russia has roughly doubled the number of tanks, armored vehicles, and rocket launchers at this site. More advanced air defense systems have also arrived at this site.
  • We are confident Moscow is mobilizing additional tanks that are no longer in the active Russian military inventory from a depot to send to this same deployment site.
  • We are concerned much of this equipment will be transferred to separatists, as we are confident Russia has already delivered tanks and multiple rocket launchers to them from this site.
  • Available information indicates Moscow has recently transferred some Soviet-era tanks and artillery to the separatists and that over the weekend several military vehicles crossed the border.
  • Social media videos of separatist military convoys suggest Russia in the past week alone has probably supplied the militants with at least two-dozen additional armored vehicles and artillery pieces and about as many military trucks.
  • Publicly available videos posted on July 14 of a Luhansk convoy on the road to Donetsk revealed at least five T-64 tanks, four BMP-2 armored personnel carriers (APC), BM-21 multiple rocket launchers, three towed antitank guns, two ZU 23-2 antiaircraft guns, and probably a 2B16 mortar.
  • A video of Krasnodon, near the Izvaryne border crossing, on 11 July showed two BTR armored personnel carriers, two antitank guns, and various trucks on a road heading in a westerly direction towards Donetsk.
  • A video filmed in Donetsk on 11 July showed a convoy of three BMD-2 APCs, two BMPs, one 2S9 self-propelled gun, and a BTR-60 APC.
  • In addition, after recapturing several Ukrainian cities last weekend, Ukrainian officials discovered caches of weapons that they assert came from Russia, including MANPADS, mines, grenades, MREs, vehicles, and a pontoon bridge.
  • Ukrainian forces have discovered large amounts of other Russian-provided military equipment, including accompanying documentation verifying the Russian origin of said equipment, in the areas they have liberated from the separatists.
  • Photographs of destroyed or disabled separatist equipment in eastern Ukraine have corroborated that some of this equipment is coming from Russia.
  • Recruiting efforts for separatist fighters are expanding inside Russia and separatists are looking for volunteers with experience operating heavy weapons such as tanks and air defenses. Russia has allowed officials from the “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” to establish a recruiting office in Moscow.
  • Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who has long had a distinguished career in the Ukrainian military, was taken by separatists in mid-June. She is now being held in a prison in Voronezh, Russia. According to the Ukrainian government, she was transferred to Russia by separatists.
  • Separately Russia continues to redeploy new forces extremely close to the Ukrainian border. We have information that a significant number of additional military units are also in the process of deploying to the border.

Ukraine’s Good-Faith Efforts: In a bid to unify the country, President Poroshenko outlined a comprehensive peace plan on June 7. President Poroshenko’s plan offers amnesty to separatists who lay down their arms voluntarily, and who are not guilty of capital crimes; commits to providing a safe corridor for Russian fighters to return to Russia; establishes a job creation program for the affected areas; includes an offer of broad decentralization and dialogue with eastern regions, including the promise of early local elections; and grants increased local control over language, holidays, and customs. President Poroshenko also has reached out to the residents of eastern Ukraine and is pursuing constitutional reform which will give local regions more authority to choose their regional leaders and protect locally-spoken languages.

President Poroshenko implemented a unilateral seven-day (later extended to ten days) unilateral ceasefire on June 20. He also proposed meeting with leaders from eastern Ukraine — including separatists — despite their stated unwillingness to abide by the cease-fire or to negotiate.

Yet Russia and its proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk did not act on this opportunity for peace. Hours after the ceasefire began, Russia-backed separatists wounded nine Ukrainian service members. During the course of the ten-day ceasefire, Russia-backed separatists attacked Ukrainian security forces over 100 times, killing 28 service members. The separatists continue to hold more than 150 hostages, mostly civilians, including teachers and journalists. Separatists have refused all offers by the Ukrainian government to meet.

This timeline of events leading to, during, and after the unilateral Ukraine ceasefire illustrates how the good-faith efforts of the Ukraine government and European leaders to broker a ceasefire with Russia and the separatists it backs have been rejected. Russia and the separatists they are supporting continued to destabilize Ukraine throughout the ceasefire, and continue to destabilize Ukraine today.

  • May 25: Petro Poroshenko, who had campaigned on a platform stressing reconciliation with the east and Russia, is elected by an absolute majority of voters in Ukraine.
  • June 8-17: President Poroshenko hosts five rounds of contact group talks, facilitated by the OSCE envoy, in the lead-up to his announcement of a ceasefire.
  • June 12: Poroshenko initiates a call to President Putin to open communication.
  • June 14: EU-brokered gas talks end with a final EU brokered proposal: Ukraine accepts the proposal, but Russia rejected it.
  • June 19: Poroshenko meets with eastern Ukrainian leaders, including separatists, in Kyiv.
  • June 20: Poroshenko implements a seven-day unilateral ceasefire. Hours later, nine Ukrainian service members are wounded by pro-Russian separatists, foreshadowing separatists’ 100 plus violent actions over the next 10 days.
  • June 23: The contact group meets in Donetsk.
  • June 25: NATO Secretary General Rasmussen notes that there are “no signs” of Russia respecting its international commitments with regard to Ukraine.
  • June 27: Ukraine provides constitutional reform provisions to the Venice Commission for review. This reform would allow for the direct election of governors and for local authorities to confer special status on minority languages within their regions.
  • June 27: Poroshenko extends the unilateral ceasefire another 72 hours to allow another chance for OSCE contact group negotiations to show progress.
  • June 28: Ukraine shoots down two Russian UAVs violating Ukraine’s airspace in the Luhansk region.
  • June 30: Due to the separatists’ refusal to abandon violence in favor of negotiation, President Poroshenko allows the cease-fire to expire.
  • July 3: President Poroshenko in a telephone conversation with U.S. Vice President Biden reaffirms that he is ready to begin political negotiations to resolve the situation in Donetsk and Luhansk regions without any additional conditions.
  • July 8: President Petro Poroshenko visits the former rebel stronghold of Slovyansk to meet with local residents after government forces recapture it from pro-Russian separatists.
  • July 9: Ukraine restores electricity and train service to Slovyansk, and Ukrainian security forces distribute food, drinking water, and humanitarian aid to the population.
  • July 11: The Ukrainian government establishes an inter-agency task force in Slovyansk that is conducting damage, security, and humanitarian needs assessments.
  • July 11: The Ukrainian government reports that it delivered over 60 tons of humanitarian aid supplies in Donetsk Oblast over the preceding 24 hours, bringing the five-day total to 158 tons. President Poroshenko announces that Ukrainian security forces had successfully cleared nearly 100 mines and roadside bombs from liberated territory.

As General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, stated on July 1: “The cease fire in Ukraine was not ended because of accusations; it was ended because Russian-backed separatists responded with violence while President Poroshenko tried to open a window for peace. Russia’s commitment to peace will be judged by its actions, not its words.” As the United States and our European allies have repeatedly stated, we call on the Russian government to halt its material support for the separatists, to use its influence with the separatists to push them to lay down their arms and abide by a ceasefire and to release all hostages. Only then can the process of bringing peace to Ukraine truly begin.

Source

June 1, 2014

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harvey-milk-stampA stamp honoring human rights activist Harvey Milk was dedicated at the White House May 22. Milk (1930–1978) became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.

His achievements inspired the LGBT community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when its members experienced widespread hostility and discrimination.

Milk’s political career was tragically cut short less than a year after he took office when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated on November 27, 1978. In 2009, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

The stamp image shows Milk in front of his San Francisco camera store around 1977.

At the dedication, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said that while President Obama is identified with two words — hope and change — “it is hard to think of words that more succinctly describe Harvey Milk the leader, the activist, the fighter, the elected official.”

“Hope and change,” Power said, are about envisioning “a world that is fairer, kinder, more just — not just for some people, but for all people.”

The HARVEY MILK® image is licensed by the Harvey Milk Foundation.

Source: IIP Digital | U.S. Department of State

Posted by Richard Stengel, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Follow @Stengel 
May 21, 2014
Ukrainian Polling Station

Ukrainian Polling Station

On Sunday, Ukrainians will go to the polls to vote for a new president. But that simple statement does not reckon with the significance of this election. The May 25 vote is not just a validator of their struggle for change and a harbinger of Ukraine’s future – plenty important enough — it is also a demarcation point between the global struggle for freedom and the forces of repression, of nations being able to choose their own future rather than have it imposed upon them.

So this is not just any election. It comes at a perilous moment in Ukraine’s long history. It follows the purported annexation of Crimea and Russia’s own efforts to destabilize the country and undermine the voting. For weeks now the Russian media machine has broadcast fictional stories of a “Neo-Nazi rampage” and a country on the verge of civil war, while the Kremlin has encouraged separatists in the east to seize power at the barrel of a gun.

Last week I traveled to Ukraine to see for myself. I found Kyiv to be calm but nervous; people were going about their business, having coffee at sidewalk cafes, taking their children to school. But they were a little anxious about the election. And why wouldn’t they be? There’s a lot riding on it.

While in Kyiv, I walked through the Maidan and paid my respects at monuments to the Heavenly Hundred, the protesters who gave their lives fighting for a truly representative government. I met young Ukrainians who protested in the Maidan and lost friends in the struggle. I spoke with one university student who told me she had always passed out at the sight of blood, yet during the protests, she volunteered to care for the wounded in one of the Maidan’s makeshift hospitals and never fainted or faltered. She said she has seen enough bloodshed for a lifetime, and now she is focused on finding a democratic future for her country. Everywhere I found a quiet patriotism, a faith that if only the people can exercise their will, Ukraine will prosper.

Graffiti on the side of a building near the Maidan in Kyiv symbolizes Ukrainians' desire to turn their struggle for change into the evolution of their country, May 2014.

Graffiti on the side of a building near the Maidan in Kyiv symbolizes Ukrainians’ desire to turn their struggle for change into the evolution of their country, May 2014.

Sunday’s elections are the best route to political healing in Ukraine. Polls show that more than 70 percent of Ukrainians want to stay intact as a nation. The elections should be an antidote to the mayhem created by Russia and the separatists who seem more intent on tearing the country down than raising it up. Everyone I spoke to in Kyiv wants a nation that includes minority voices, a nation that looks both westward and eastward. They reject the notion that they must choose one or the other.

Elections are never perfect — and this one will not be either. There will be disruptions, and some people will stay home in the east, where election officials have been intimidated and in some cases even kidnapped. Russia has also ensured that no voting will take place in Crimea. But instead of preventing people from voting, the separatists should register their dissent in the voting booth. The story of the 21st century shows that in the end, the ballot box is more powerful than the bullet. Around 400 million people in Europe are eligible to vote this weekend in European Parliamentary elections — Ukrainians deserve the same right to express their will.

More than 200 years ago, Thomas Paine wrote that “the right of voting…is the primary right by which other rights are protected.” Let this election be the beginning and not the end of the Ukrainian people being able to choose and construct their future. It should not only reflect the will of the Ukrainian people but be an engine for protecting the rights of minorities as well. That is the future of Ukraine.

Posted by: Tom Malinowski, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

The Kremlin’s ruler wants to extend to neighboring countries the tyranny he imposes on his own people.

May 18, 2014 

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Russian President Vladimir Putin Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

You can usually figure what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing and why by noting the actions and values he falsely projects onto others.

Over the past several weeks, for example, he has accused the Ukrainian government of stripping autonomy from Ukraine’s eastern regions, while moving to end local elections in Russia.

He has claimed U.S. “mercenaries” were operating alongside Ukrainian forces, while infiltrating Russian special forces to seize Crimea and organize violence in Ukraine’s east.

He has called the Internet a CIA creation, while trying to bring Russian social media under the control of a secret police-dominated state.

So when Mr. Putin justified intervention in Ukraine by accusing its government of human-rights abuses, it was a bad sign for the Ukrainians who would soon be subject to his rule.

The new authorities in Kiev aren’t perfect. But international organizations have found no evidence that they are or were suppressing the rights of the ethnic-Russian minority in Crimea or Ukraine’s east. Pro-Kremlin separatists, on the other hand, have been attacking their unarmed opponents with growing abandon. Every offense Russia falsely attributed to Ukraine’s Maidan is in fact being committed by its own forces and proxies.

The pattern began in Crimea. Shortly after Russia’s intervention, local authorities announced that ethnic Tatars—who had returned over the years to Crimea after their mass deportation by Joseph Stalin —would have to vacate their land. Before the deportation’s 70th anniversary this week, police conducted mass searches of Tatar homes.

On over a dozen occasions in the days that followed, armed men attacked or detained local and international journalists. Pro-Russian forces kidnapped and tortured Ukrainian civic activists. At least two were killed in detention, their bodies dumped in forests; more are still missing. International organizations report that around 5,000 people—including minority Christians, Jews and at least 3,000 Tatars—have fled Crimea and sought refuge elsewhere in Ukraine.

In Ukraine’s east, polls show that the great majority of people—whether they supported the Maidan revolution or not—don’t want to join Russia. But when the citizens of Donetsk, Slovyansk and Kharkiv have come out to oppose Moscow’s intervention, pro-Russian militias have repeatedly assaulted them; more than 100 peaceful demonstrators in the east have been hospitalized after such attacks.

Abductions, torture and killings have also intensified in the east. Three bodies of supporters of the Kiev government recently washed up on a riverbank in Slovyansk, bearing signs of torture. Acting on orders from the self-appointed “mayor” of Slovyansk, pro-Russian militias have begun to drive local Roma families from their homes.

In these and other ways, Mr. Putin is extending into eastern Ukraine the repression he has imposed inside Russia in recent years, in direct opposition to what eastern Ukrainians would enjoy as part of a united Ukraine: local autonomy, freedom of expression and internationally monitored free and fair elections. This isn’t just the effect of Mr. Putin’s intervention; it is arguably the intent. The example of Ukraine’s Maidan—of ordinary people overthrowing a corrupt, authoritarian ruler so that they could draw closer to European democracies—was a threat to the ruler of the Kremlin. For this, in Mr. Putin’s mind, Ukraine had to be punished and humiliated, if not carved into pieces.

Russia’s actions are a threat to a postwar international order designed to banish the old pattern of large powers swallowing small ones. But the crisis in Ukraine is also a contest of values. This isn’t a contest between the West and Russia, but between people everywhere—including in Moscow—who believe that states exist to serve their citizens, and regimes that think it should be the other way around.

The sanctions that Washington and Brussels have imposed to stop Russian aggression have costs. All sanctions do, and because the potential costs are higher for Europe, paying this price isn’t a mere gesture. But it is striking that in Europe, those most vulnerable to Russia’s countermeasures—from Estonia to Poland to the Czech Republic—have nonetheless been among the most vocal in pressing us to act.

The effect is even more pronounced among Russian dissidents I have recently met—men and women who are labeled “traitors,” “foreign agents” and “extremists” for questioning the Kremlin, but who still urge us to resist what their government is doing. The closer one is to the heart of the problem, the more one sees what’s at stake.

Those of us who live further away should see things as clearly. We were right to seek practical cooperation with Russia and to encourage its integration as a respected power into global institutions. I hope that the time will come when this is possible again. But in the current crisis, we are right not to make the mistake of projecting our hopes onto the ruler of Russia in the way he projects his cynicism onto us.

Source

Posted by: David Young, Legal Officer, United States Agency for International Development

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idahoOn May 17, 2014, the world will observe International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons and communities across the globe.  IDAHO promotes a world of tolerance, respect, and freedom regardless of people’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The U.S. Government maintains a vision in which the human rights of LGBT persons are respected and they are able to live with dignity, free from discrimination, persecution and violence.  In this world, the human rights of LGBT persons are upheld; they are able to participate fully in democratic decision-making in their households, communities and countries; they have equal access to sustainable livelihoods, economic assets and resources; and they are not barred from accessing the basic education, health and other services that are enjoyed by their fellow citizens and that are essential for personal well-being and growth.  LGBT persons and their allies can come together to advocate for the equal treatment for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

In Ukraine, the U.S. Government supports programs that counter abuse, discrimination and human rights violations targeting LGBT persons.  For example, the U.S. Embassy provides small grants to LGBT non-governmental organizations and helps enhance the skills of LGBT leaders through training programs and exchanges in the United States.  The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) civil society activities work with non-governmental organizations, including those focused on LGBT concerns, to help them advocate for human rights. Additionally, a USAID media development project monitors and reports on media activities related to gender, and the ways in which LGBT persons and issues are portrayed in the media. USAID also supports programs that counter the trafficking in human beings, which includes support for LGBT persons who can be victims of trafficking.

Ukraine faces many challenges at the moment.  Supporting the fight against homophobia and passing legislation to prevent discrimination against LGBT persons will not only improve the lives of Ukrainian LGBT citizens but will also strengthen Ukraine’s ability to meet these challenges by improving the business environment for foreign investment and furthering visa liberalization with the European Union.  The U.S. Government looks forward to working with the Government of Ukraine and all Ukrainians to further protect the rights of LGBT persons.

Posted by: Joseph Rozenshtein is Assistant Management Officer and Green Team Coordinator; Rachel Atwood Mendiola is an Assistant Cultural Affairs Officer and leads the Green Team’s outreach efforts.

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Ambassador Geoff Pyatt led U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s celebration of Earth Week 2014 by helping to clean a portion of Nivky Park

Ambassador Geoff Pyatt led U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s celebration of Earth Week 2014 by helping to clean a portion of Nivky Park

On Wednesday, April 30, Ambassador Geoff Pyatt led U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s celebration of Earth Week 2014 by helping to clean a portion of Nivky Park, located just across Igor Sikorski Street from the Embassy. The beautification project involved 25 Embassy officers, local staff, and family members working together with the Kyiv City Park Administration. We collected trash, including broken glass, bottle caps, plastic waste, and other refuse, and swept one of the major paths in the park to make it cleaner for fellow pedestrians. Nivky Park is more than 100 years old and was granted the status of a local nature reserve in 1972. There are over 90 varieties of trees in the park. The park is a long-time neighborhood favorite.

The park cleanup was organized by U.S. Embassy Kyiv’s Green Team. As Green Team members, we were glad to see so many of our colleagues and their family members join us to give back to a park and community that means so much to us, both as commuters and as good neighbors, by helping to keep the park clean, healthy, and safe. It’s also not every day that you see the Ambassador with a broom!

The cleanup is only one of the many activities the Embassy is doing to celebrate environmental responsibility.  As Secretary of State Kerry said, “This year’s Earth Day focus is cities, and the fact is, how the world’s cities respond to our climate change challenge will make a huge difference. Roughly 5.2 billion people are projected to live in the world’s urban communities by 2050. Building codes and electricity requirements, public transportation systems, and land management will help determine whether we meet this global challenge. The Department of State is committed to doing our part to help bring about greener cities around the world.” As part of the Department of State’s “Greening Diplomacy Initiative,” the Embassy has worked green practices into the very fabric of our mission. Here are just a few things we are doing:

  • We built a green Embassy, with a green roof system and indigenous landscaping with rain gardens that pre-treat storm water.
  • We installed energy efficient hand driers to reduce our paper towel use.
  • Our Building Automation System keeps our boilers turned off for longer periods of time, reducing energy and gas consumption.
  • We safely dispose thousands of fluorescent light bulbs that contain harmful mercury.
  • We have motion sensors to control lighting in the corridors, some offices, and rooms.
  • We buy paper locally, rather than shipping it from the U.S., which reduces gas consumption and pollution from transportation.
  • We care about recycling and recently visited the company where our paper, plastic, glass, and metal waste items are sorted for recycling.
  • We used distillers in all our homes to reduce bottled water usage, but as these machines are not energy efficient, we are replacing the distillers with low energy water filters, reducing our carbon footprint.
  • We also started a community garden last year. Most of us grew up in cities where access to nature was limited, and with the community garden, we can learn about growing food while teaching our children the importance of caring for the environment.

But that’s just what we do inside the Embassy. We also strive to help Ukraine and Ukrainians to improve their environment with various projects, like improving environmental legislation and clean energy regulation, saving energy, reducing CO2 emissions, and developing sustainable clean energy alternatives, among others.

To learn more, and to tell us some of the ways you work to improve your environment, check out our recent Earth Day video!