Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at a Press Conference with Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at a Press Conference with Governor Mikheil Saakashvili, Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

On Sunday and Monday, I had the chance to return to Odesa – a cool, multicultural city on Ukraine’s coast with extraordinary potential.  It was my first trip back since the fire at the Trade Unions Building, and I was eager to learn about the transformative change the new Oblast Administration has undertaken.

On Sunday afternoon, I took the advice of some of my Twitter followers and visited the shops and beaches of Arcadia City.  It was great to see so many families out (and a lot of American flag t-shirts!) – but I promise you will never see me on the amazingly high water slide that has almost finished construction!  I also took the chance to join the crowds of tourists and locals out walking on Deribasivska Street – one of Ukraine’s greatest people watching spots.

My Monday started with Ukrainian civil society.  I wanted to hear the views of young, reform-minded leaders and learn more about their efforts to drive forward the positive change we all want to see for Ukraine.

From there, we went to the Governor’s office, where I underscored U.S. support for the Oblast Administration’s efforts to tackle the problems of corruption and governance that have been such an impediment to economic development in Odesa.  I talked a lot with Governor Saakashvili about how the United States plans to support these efforts in the days and weeks ahead – providing trainers to help stand up a new patrol police, helping to form an Anti-Corruption Task Force inside the Oblast Administration, and supporting other initiatives to improve policing, root out corruption, and strengthen rule of law, including a new grants program for civil society groups.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

I also welcomed the chance to visit the new public service hall – the focal point of the Oblast Administration’s efforts to create an atmosphere of transparency and establish practices that ensure a level playing field and guaranteed delivery for government services.  The building’s sunny atrium reminded me of the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brandeis:  sunlight is the best disinfectant. Everybody I’ve ever talked to in Ukraine has stories about the small-scale corruption that has infected the process of receiving government services. This new service center reinforces that government is meant to serve the interests of the citizens, and not the other way around.  That’s the foundation that this initiative is being built on.

After meeting with the Mayor, and discussing his own efforts to support these anti-corruption efforts (which I applaud), I headed to the port, where I visited customs officials and a recently expanded grain handling facility.  It reminded me of the huge untapped potential of this part of Ukraine.  Every time I visit Odesa, I am reminded that it is a globally connected, cosmopolitan city.   It should be a thriving gateway, not just for Ukraine’s maritime commerce, but really for all of central and eastern Europe.  And I think it has the potential to re-emerge as a great global crossroads once again.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

A highlight of my trip was the time I spent on-board the Sahaydachny, to pay my respects to Ukraine’s sailors on behalf of the U.S. Navy as they celebrated Ukraine’s Navy Day.  The honor guard was terrific, I was moved as the band played the U.S. national anthem on the deck of the ship, and I am so very grateful for Admiral Hayduk’s hospitality.

Finally, I had the chance to visit with the members of the American Chamber of Commerce, where I previewed the U.S.-Ukraine Business Forum being held by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington next week.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, American Chamber of Commerce, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt visits Odesa, American Chamber of Commerce, Ukraine, July 6, 2015

I come away from this visit to Odesa with a sense of optimism.  Most important to me is the sense I got from people from all over the Oblast — not just the Governor and his inner circle — but from a variety of people that there’s a willingness now to focus in a very serious way on the reform agenda, and an eagerness to partner with the international community.

But most important was the validation I heard from members of Ukrainian civil society.  The belief among civil society is that this is not just window dressing, that this represents a real change in direction and change in tone by the Odesa authorities.

Everywhere I go in Ukraine I find an appetite for change, for getting rid of the corruption, for removing the barriers and obstacles to doing business that have had such an awful impact on this country over too many years.  I said to the Governor that I was confident that as long as he drives forward the pace of reform, we will continue to see an active and visible presence from me and my colleagues.  We see real opportunity here — we see change coming.  And as long as Ukraine keeps delivering on the promise of reform, the United States will continue supporting it on its path toward a more democratic, prosperous, European future.

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Last week, the United States marked the 239th anniversary of its independence – and I was lucky enough to celebrate the Fourth of July not once, but twice!   First, on July 2 – the day the Second Continental Congress voted for independence in 1776 – I was delighted to welcome a broad range of luminaries from Ukrainian government, civil society, and business to my home for the Embassy’s annual Independence Day reception.

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Our Marine Security Guards presented the colors in their best dress, visiting members of the U.S. Army Choir sang a moving rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and Ruslana rocked the Ukrainian national anthem like no one else can.  It was a great opportunity to visit with friends and colleagues, enjoy a taste of home, and celebrate the core values the United States and Ukraine share.  Plus, I got to wear the really great American flag vyshyvanka that was given to me as a gift by our friends at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

On Saturday, the actual Fourth of July, I joined the American Chamber of Commerce for its annual Independence Day Picnic at the Kyiv International School – another fun event with great company, food, and music by our Embassy band, Duck and Cover.

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

Celebrating U.S. Independence Day in Ukraine, July 2, 2015

The Fourth of July has always been my favorite American holiday. Beyond the fireworks, the barbecuing, and the beer, it’s fundamentally about democracy, rule of law, and the principles of freedom. For the early United States, this was no easy road.  In our own Revolution, we had to fight for these principles through hard times, times when democracy seemed like it might be a failed experiment.  At a time when Ukraine is challenged as never before, our Independence Day was a time to look ahead to what Ukraine stands to gain at the end of its own hard road: the self-determination and true democracy that was the central demand of those who stood on the Maidan.

I’m excited to see what the future holds as we work together to accomplish these shared goals. The United States is proud to be a partner as both we and Ukraine strive to perfect our democracies, and we are grateful to have the chance to share this holiday with the people of Ukraine.

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Remarks by Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt at a Reception Celebrating U.S. Independence Day

Posted by: Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf)

Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf)

Earlier this week, I had the honor of visiting Ukraine’s National Military History Museum to take part in a very special, and somewhat unusual, ceremony. I presented the US Distinguished Flying Cross for Colonel Mykhaylo Ivanovich Smil’skiy to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Petro Mekhed (on Smil’skiy’s behalf). I was also thrilled that our departing Defense Attaché, Colonel Joe Hickox, who is retiring from his own distinguished career as an air force pilot, was able to take part in the ceremony. The Distinguished Flying Cross is in honor of Smil’skiy’s extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight in Eastern Europe—in 1944.

Though Colonel Smil’skiy was presented with a certificate during his lifetime, he never received the Distinguished Flying Cross itself. To correct this historic injustice, representatives of the United States and Ukraine came together on Tuesday to honor a man who had served on the frontlines of our shared fight for freedom and for liberty, who served proudly and heroically as the United States and the Soviet Union fought together to defeat Nazi Germany.

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross was created after World War I to recognize the courage, endurance, and gallantry of pilots. It is awarded to any officer or enlisted person of the Armed Forces of the United States who has distinguished him or herself in actual combat by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight. During wartime, it may also be awarded to the members of the Armed Forces of friendly foreign nations serving with the United States. The medal itself deeply symbolic: the cross represents sacrifice, the propellers stand for flight, and the ribbon reflects the national colors of the United States.

Myhailo Ivanovych Smylskii was an extraordinary individual. Born in 1920 in Kyiv, by the end of World War II, he had flown approximately 200 combat flights. Smylskii was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin (twice), Order of the Red Banner (3 times), and the Order of Suvorov of 3rd degree.

flying-cross-3Smil’skiy’s accomplishments and courage are echoed by the service and sacrifice of those on the front lines in Ukraine today—by the heroism and valor of the brave Ukrainians fighting to secure Ukraine’s freedom for future generations. Just as we did in the 1940s, the United States stands with Ukraine, as a partner, as a friend, and as a country deeply vested in Ukraine’s future, just as we were when Mikhaylo Smil’skiy took bravely to the skies in his country’s defense some 70 years ago.

Posted by: EUCOM

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By Master Sgt. Charles D. Larkin, USAF
United States European Command
Stuttgart, Germany, May 5, 2015

Three years ago, United States European Command (EUCOM) consolidated several military installations located throughout Europe. As installations closed and buildings were emptied, office furniture, computers, beds, and other furniture and equipment piled up in warehouses, like the one operated by the US-Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in Italy.

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U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine speaks at an inauguration ceremony for the Vinnytsia Community Education Center

Thanks to the efforts of EUCOM and DSCA, some of those items were recently given a new home in Vinnytsia, Ukraine. Personnel from the U.S. Embassy to Ukraine, EUCOM officials, and members of local Ukrainian government and non-government organizations gathered at the brand-new Vinnytsia Community Education Center for an inauguration ceremony on April 27.

The project began in 2012 as a request from a local non-government organization. They wanted a resource center in their area to focus on public health and youth education for socially-vulnerable individuals. Additionally, the community center also addresses the problems of internal displaced persons (IDP) and human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation — often referred to as a modern-day form of slavery — is a multi-billion dollar criminal activity in Ukraine. Trafficking of women and children for this type of exploitation is a serious problem affecting hundreds of thousands of victims and their families. (more…)

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Following a national design competition, architect Friedrich St. Florian’s design concept was selected for the National World War II Memorial. Consisting of 56 pillars and a pair of small triumphal arches surrounding a plaza and fountain, it sits on the National Mall, between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Fifty-six granite pillars celebrate the unprecedented unity of the nation during WWII. Each state and territory from that period and the District of Columbia is represented by a pillar adorned with oak and wheat bronze wreaths and inscribed with its name; the pillars are arranged in the order of entry into the Union. The pillars are connected by a bronze sculpted rope that symbolizes the bonding of the nation.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Two 43-foot pavilions serve as markers and entries on the north and south ends of the plaza. Inlayed on the floor of the pavilions are the WWII victory medal surrounded by the years “1941-1945″ and the words “Victory on Land,” “Victory at Sea,” and “Victory in the Air.” These sculptural elements celebrate the victory won in the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Memorial plaza and Rainbow Pool are the principal design features of the Memorial, unifying all other elements. Two flagpoles flying the American flag frame the ceremonial entrance at 17th Street. A series of 24 bronze bas-relief panels along the ceremonial entrance balustrades depict America’s war years, at home and overseas. Located at the 17th Street ceremonial entrance, the Announcement Stone of the Memorial says the following:

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

HERE IN THE PRESENCE OF WASHINGTON AND LINCOLN, ONE THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY FATHER AND THE OTHER THE NINETEENTH CENTURY PRESERVER OF OUR NATION, WE HONOR THOSE TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICANS WHO TOOK UP THE STRUGGLE DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND MADE THE SACRIFICES TO PERPETUATE THE GIFT OUR FOREFATHERS ENTRUSTED TO US: A NATION CONCEIVED IN LIBERTY AND JUSTICE.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Each of the 4,048 gold stars represents 100 Americans who died during the war

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Each of the 4,048 gold stars represents 100 Americans who died during the war

The Memorial was funded primarily by private contributions. It received more than $197 million in cash and pledges. This total includes $16 million provided by the federal government. The memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world.

Source: http://www.wwiimemorialfriends.org

Pasted by: IIP State

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This is the fifth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

Under Russia’s broad extremism law, the Russian government has sought to declare that minority religious groups in Crimea are “extremists”. Crimean Tatars, Catholics, and Ukrainian Orthodox faithful face harassment and the confiscation of property simply because of their faith.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stand United for Ukraine.
Stop Russian Aggression.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine

Posted by ShareAmerica

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This is the fourth of a five-part series on the costs Russia’s actions have imposed on Crimea.

It’s been one year since Russia began its aggressive occupation of Crimea. After the illegal referendum, it was nearly impossible for those Crimeans who wished to retain their Ukrainian citizenship to do so. They were forced instead to become Russian citizens.

The costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine are real.
Stop Russian aggression.
Stand United for Ukraine.

Learn more about the costs of Russia’s actions in Ukraine by following #UnitedforUkraine