The Science and Technology Center in Ukraine: Supporting a Safer World for 20 Years

Posted by: Simon G. Limage, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, U.S. Department of State

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Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares statue at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City
Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares statue at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City

Outside the United Nations building in New York stands a bronze sculpture of a man beating a sword into a ploughshare. This depiction of man’s desire to end war and transform its terrible implements into tools for peaceful uses was sculpted by Yevgeny Vuchetich, a Soviet artist born in Ukraine. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Ukraine emerged as a global leader in WMD nonproliferation efforts with great contributions to global peace and security. One prominent example was the evolution and opening of the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The STCU stands today as a real-life example of the symbolism of Vuchetich’s sculpture.

Over the course of the last 20 years, Ukraine was joined by Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the United States, Sweden, Canada and EURATOM to create an innovative center that would redirect the skills and knowledge of weapons scientists to peaceful applications. To date, the STCU has worked with nearly 21,000 scientists, of which about 12,000 were former weapon scientists from the Soviet era.

For more than 20 years, the STCU’s primary mission has been to promote a safer world by supporting civilian science and technology partnerships that address global security threats and advance nonproliferation. In short, the STCU supports responsible research by scientists and academics from broad backgrounds and multiple disciplines.

Consider some of the STCU’s many achievements:

  • The STCU’s nearly 20-year partnership with the U.S. National Cancer Institute has allowed researchers to develop methodology from studies of post-Chernobyl radiation fallout. The results were used to protect children from the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Results from both studies have been published in highly regarded scientific journals.
  • The STCU has supported International Space Station cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in research of outer space for peaceful purposes. Such research includes life and microgravity sciences. Many of these projects were conducted on the International Space Station.
  • STCU scientists continue to engage in environmental assessments, remediation and long-term monitoring of areas impacted by the Fukushima disaster. Researchers have developed methods to reduce the volume of radioactive waste and continue to monitor any radioactive pollution of the forest ecosystems.

556702_511509175540700_802101174_nFuture research will focus on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosion mitigation to combat terrorists who seek to use weapons of mass destruction for nefarious purposes. The STCU will support projects that improve the security of pathogens that pose proliferation risks; advance safe and responsible conduct in the biological sciences; and develop countermeasures for emerging diseases. The STCU also plans to support improved monitoring of commercial use of radiological material in oil well geological logging operations, as well as and transportation security for nuclear material.

Since 1995, U.S. funding to the STCU has been more than $166 million. For 20 years it has stood as a bulwark in the fight against those trying to develop WMD by harnessing the region’s best scientific minds. Its achievements may not grab major headlines, but its successes cannot be overstated. You can read more about the STCU at www.stcu.int

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Kharkiv: Defying Stereotypes and Leading the Way to Ukraine’s Future

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016
Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016

This week, I had the honor to travel to Kharkiv with President Poroshenko as we launched the commissioning phase of our joint $73 million state-of-the-art Neutron Source Facility, which has the potential to vastly expand the research capabilities of the renowned Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.  My visit, and especially our meeting with the bright young police volunteers training to serve in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, reminded me again how fast Ukraine is changing, and just how outdated the simplistic Russian narrative of Ukrainian geographic division has become.  Seeing such dynamic energy in Kharkiv and all the exciting projects in progress there underlines the hope I have for Ukraine’s future.

My first stop with the President was the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology’s Neutron Source Facility (NSF).  It was well over a year ago that I first visited the site with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in December of 2014.  At that time, the project still had some way to go before the NSF could start work.  This time around, though, it’s in the very final stretch, with physical construction now complete.  The $73 million the United States has invested in this state-of-the-art facility will give Ukraine new research capabilities, as well as the ability to produce isotopes for industrial and medical use right here in Ukraine.  My congratulations go most of all to the brilliant scientists of the Institute who were our key partners in making this exciting project a reality, which marks yet another milestone in the twenty-year story (and counting) of our science and technology cooperation with Ukraine.  Ukrainian scientists continue working in close partnership with U.S. National Laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, on moving the facility from equipment installation, through commissioning, and into full operation.  The NSF will provide a platform for training a new generation of nuclear experts in Ukraine, and continue the proud tradition of excellence in applied and theoretical physics that has distinguished  the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology since its founding in 1928.

In my conversation with President Poroshenko during the visit, I urged him to support all the steps necessary to commission the facility in 2016, so that Ukrainians can benefit from the full potential of the research center. The upcoming 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled for March 31 and April 1 in Washington, D.C., will offer President Poroshenko to reaffirm, and the world to recognize, Ukraine’s continuing international leadership on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and safety.

From the NSF, we were off to meet the new Patrol Police cadets training in Kharkiv and observe their rigorous (and action-packed!) basic training course.  The group we saw will fill new Patrol Police positions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, including Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.  I was incredibly inspired by these patriotic young men and women – who represent the next generation of Ukrainians taking their country’s future into their own hands.  Like the cadets in other cities, they are taking the initiative to win the trust of their fellow citizens and keep their communities safe.  I have been very proud of the United States’ support throughout Ukraine for the new Patrol Police, who play an essential role in helping rebuild the faith that the Ukrainian people have in their government institutions – one of their most valuable contributions to Ukrainian society.  And nowhere is that more valuable than in these communities in eastern Ukraine, where Russia’s unprovoked aggression has wrought such devastation and threatened – unsuccessfully, I might add – to destroy people’s trust in their government.  But contrary to Russia’s intentions, Ukraine is stronger and more united than ever, and these cadets are living proof of it.

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Kharkiv Patrol Police Training Center, March 2016

Kharkiv is among the many Ukrainian cities making reforms to attract investment and jobs to their region, and this was evident at our visit to Turboatom, a turbine manufacturer and longtime Kharkiv institution that provides thousands of jobs at its mammoth facility near the center of the city.  Turboatom may have a long history, but it’s also reinventing itself: it’s reached deals with U.S. businesses including Westinghouse and Holtec to modernize Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and move Ukraine toward sustainable energy independence.  Westinghouse is helping Turboatom modernize Ukraine’s nuclear reactors, providing more clean energy to the national electrical grid and developing expertise relevant to other countries with Russian designed reactors, including in Europe; Holtec, meanwhile, is jointly developing spent nuclear fuel storage systems with Turboatom for both domestic and international markets.  It was striking to see at Turboatom so many Ukrainian flags, as well as a touching tribute to employees who were ATO veterans, another rebuke to Russia’s false narrative of division. I’m glad to see Ukrainian and U.S. businesses working together, as with Turboatom, to help Ukraine tap into its enormous potential in domestic energy production and to reduce its reliance on equipment imports from Russia, and hope we’ll see even more cooperation like this in the future.

Ukraine’s future is bright, as it continues to defy Russia’s stereotypes about east and west and present a united Ukraine.  My trip to Kharkiv served as a reminder of just how much more united Ukraine has become over the past two years, through their clear choice for a European identity and in response to Russia’s aggression.  Ukraine has made remarkable progress, something that is all too easy to forget in the day-to-day drama of domestic politics.  And nowhere is that more true than Kharkiv.  At the airport, just before flying back to Kyiv, I had the chance to meet with Governor Rainin.  As I noted in my last blog on Kharkiv (from September), I’m thrilled to have such a strong partner there, one who is committed to pursuing reform and anti-corruption.  As we parted ways, Governor Rainin told me with obvious pride that “Kharkiv is moving ahead.”  My visit made very clear how true that is.

Franchising: a Great Vehicle for Business Success in Ukraine

Posted by: Michele Smith and Anatoliy Sakhno, U.S. Commercial Service Ukraine

“The perseverance of franchising in Ukraine during the last year shows that Ukrainian businessmen and women usually find a way to turn negative factors to their advantage” Myrosalva Kozachuk, Managing Partner of the Franchise Group

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franchising-photo
Anatoliy Sakhno, Commercial Specialist for Franchising of the U.S. Commercial Service presents 2015 Special Frinchising Report

With a market of 45 million people, Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe and should be on the radar screens of all major franchisors.  Recognizing, however, that franchisors lacked information about Ukraine, the U.S. Commercial Service partnered with both the Franchise Group and the Retail Association to start filling this data gap with Ukraine’s first-ever franchise business outlook report.  “Ukrainian Franchises Resilient in Turbulent Times,” a 2015 special report, was presented by Anatoliy Sakhno, Commercial Specialist for Franchising of the U.S. Commercial Service, together with the Franchise Group at the opening of the Franchising 2016 trade show in Kyiv in February.

Franchising-reportThe report includes a survey of more than 100 franchised and non-franchised retail operators in Ukraine and reveals an amazing – and surprising – story about Ukraine’s entrepreneurial spirit.  Despite the conflict in eastern Ukraine and extremely challenging circumstances in the retail sector, the majority (65 %) of franchises reported an increase in annual revenues in 2015. Both franchised and independent retailers are optimistic about 2016, with more than three in four survey respondents anticipating that their company’s annual revenues will increase by 6 % or more in 2016.

The report had its roots in a disappointing trade show experience last summer. In June 2015, the U.S. Commercial Service led a group of 20 Ukrainian entrepreneurs to the International Franchise Expo in New York, one of the largest trade shows in North America and world’s largest gathering of franchising professionals. Although the Ukrainian delegation was one of the largest ever taken to the U.S. for any trade show, and although the Commercial Service and Ukrainian Consulate in New York conducted a promotional seminar about Ukraine’s business climate, U.S. franchisors expressed little or no interest in doing business in Ukraine. The main reasons they cited were the military conflict in the East, the economic crisis, the annexation of Crimea, and a lack of serious market data about the Ukrainian franchise market – its size, trends, and potential.

The reports documents significant growth potential for Western brands in Ukraine’s market as the country turns the corner on its recent economic hardships. A deep dive into this sector also reveals that Ukrainians are not just looking for big franchise brands, but for reliable and innovative business models and best practices in process and business management.  Why? Because recent data has proven that franchising is a reliable way to reduce operating risks and improve a company’s chance of long-term survival.  For example, after ten years of operations, nine in ten enterprises working under franchise arrangements stay in businesses, compared to just 18 percent of all enterprises that remain in business after their first ten years. In a nutshell, Ukrainian entrepreneurs have figured out that their long terms chances of success are five times higher if they use the franchising model.

To help build a data-rich history of this sector in Ukraine, the U.S. Commercial Service and the Franchise Group will issue a second survey and report on franchising in Ukraine in 2016.  Working together, we aim to help spread the word that Ukraine’s franchising market is alive and well and making a positive impact on businesses’ development. Read the 2015 report and learn more about opportunities for trade between the U.S. and Ukraine in the franchise sector at the U.S. Commercial Service in Kyiv’s franchising page.

 

Ukrainian Heroes: the Women Making Ukraine Great

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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U.S. Ambassador Pyatt and Nadiya Savchenko’s mother Mariya, Kyiv, March 2016

Every March 8, as Ukraine celebrates International Women’s Day, we pause to celebrate the contributions women make to our families, our workplaces, and our world.  But it’s not only on March 8 that I’m reminded of the strength and resilience of Ukrainian women – every day, as I interact with them in government, civil society, business, culture, and education, I’ve seen firsthand their tremendous courage.  One of the biggest stories of the past three years is Vladimir Putin’s dangerous underestimation of Ukrainian women.  They are truly a force to be reckoned with.

On the Maidan, I was privileged to witness Olha Bohomolets caring for the wounded and dying.  Her medical corps was a model of compassion blended with quick-thinking skill.  And who can forget Ruslana singing Ukraine’s anthem night after night, unintimidated by the violence she and other Maidan protestors faced?  She sang for freedom, for the dream of so many Ukrainians to live in an open, democratic European society, and none of us who heard her song can ever forget it.

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U.S. Ambassador Pyatt talks to Ukrainian women during the reception, Kyiv, March 2016

And, of course, there is Nadia Savchenko.  I am constantly amazed by the bravery that Nadia has shown through every day of her unjust and illegal captivity in Russia.  Her kidnapping, imprisonment, and “trial,” all in clear violation of the Minsk agreements, is an outrageous mockery of international law.  In spite of this, Nadia has stayed strong, never wavering in her love of country and in her refusal to let the crimes against her break her spirit.  Nadia was already a trailblazer as the first female graduate of Ukraine’s Air Force Academy; her incredible courage in the face of her ongoing detention makes her even more worthy of our deepest respect.

I had the great honor to host Nadiya Savchenko’s mother Mariya in my home last week, along with more than a hundred other amazing Ukrainian women.  In honor of Women’s Day, we invited each guest to bring an important woman in her life.  The incredible group of women that resulted spanned generations and was a cross-section of Ukrainian society.  Every day these women fight corruption, build civil society coalitions, pass new laws, drive technological innovations, and engage in ground-breaking research.  But what united all of them was a shared vision of Ukraine’s future in a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Valuing the extraordinary contributions made by women is not just good economic or political sense:  it is basic fairness and respect for human rights.  President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have both made the rights of women and girls a top priority.  In Ukraine, we see the importance of women’s contributions every single day.  Women played a huge role in the Maidan, and continue to drive reforms in and through the new government.  Whatever changes come in the future, I know that the determined women who have shaped my time in Ukraine will be at the forefront.  Long after the tulips have wilted, let’s resolve to remember and celebrate the contributions of these tremendous women every day of the year.

Helping Ukraine Defend Itself

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Special Operations Forces Training, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016
Special Operations Forces Training, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR), on his trip to Khmelnytskyi, where U.S. forces from the 10th Special Forces Group are training Ukrainian special operations forces as part of the Joint Multinational Training Group – Ukraine.

I welcomed the chance to hear from Deputy Minister of Defense Dolgov and Ukrainian Special Operations Forces Commander Major General Luniov on the status of Ukraine’s special operations reform efforts, and to witness first-hand the classroom and field training U.S. and Allied special operations forces are providing Ukrainian special forces to enhance Ukraine’s capability to defend itself in the face of relentless Russian aggression.

Cyborgs Unit Patch
Cyborgs Unit Patch

At Khmelnitsky, U.S. special operations forces are providing training on a wide array of military specialties — medical, marksmanship, construction and demolition, communications, and technology.  I was incredibly impressed.  Ukraine’s new special operations recruits show great promise, and include many brave soldiers who’ve already served in the ATO, including one of the Cyborgs who had helped defend the Donetsk Airport.  I felt incredibly honored when he presented me with his unit patch.

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U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and Ukrainian Special Operations Forces Commander Major General Luniov, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine, January 2016

Our training at Khmelnytskyi is taking place at the invitation of the Ukrainian government, and reflects the commitment of the United States to help Ukraine build a professional, NATO-standard fighting force.  Since 2014, we have provided more than $266 million in equipment and training to help Ukrainian forces better monitor and secure their border, operate more safely and effectively, and defend their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

What I saw on my trip reaffirmed my confidence that the Ukrainian military is committed to moving forward with the process of reform — moving toward European institutions, a NATO-standard military, a NATO-standard special forces capability.  We’re very proud that the United States is part of that project.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch some of my trip highlights here.

Honoring Lviv’s Jewish Past and Holocaust Suffering

Posted by Eric A. Johnson, Public Affairs Officer

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During the last days of Elul, Ambassador Pyatt paid his respects to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were brutally murdered by the Nazis in and around Lviv.  Ambassador Pyatt left behind his first visitation stone at the monument honoring those Jews who died in the Lviv Ghetto.  Although Lviv was already the third largest Jewish city in the region in 1939, its Jewish population doubled to more than 200,000 by the time the Nazis occupied the city in June 1941.  Over that summer, the Nazis forcibly moved all of the Jews in Lviv to the northern end of the city beyond the train tracks.  While the systematic killings of Jews began in the ghetto, the Nazi regime also started shipping Jews in cattle cars to the nearby Belzec Extermination Camp where as many as half a million Jews were mercilessly slaughtered.

Ambassador Pyatt Visits the Lviv Ghetto
Ambassador Pyatt Visits the Lviv Ghetto

Many of the Jews who were deemed “fit for work” ended up being moved from the Lviv Ghetto to the even closer Janowska Concentration Camp on the outskirts of Lviv.  An estimated 200,000 Jews were worked to death or executed at Janowska over the next two years.  Many of the Holocaust-related items on display in Kyiv’s World War II Museum today – including a horrifying bone-crushing machine – come from the Janowska Concentration Camp.  Ambassador Pyatt left behind a second visitation stone in memory of those who died at Janowska at the huge boulder which marks one of the sites where the concentration camp’s victims were buried.

Ambassador Pyatt at a Memorial to Victims of the Janowska Concentration Camp
Ambassador Pyatt at a Memorial to Victims of the Janowska Concentration Camp

Home to almost 50 synagogues before World War II, the Nazis destroyed all but two during their occupation of Lviv.  During his visit to Lviv’s old Jewish neighborhood centered along Staroevreyska Street, Ambassador Pyatt visited the sites of the former Great City Synagogue as well as the Golden Rose (Turei Zahav) Synagogue.  Several years ago, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv – through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation – gave a grant to help document the history of the Golden Rose Synagogue in order to help honor Lviv’s Jewish past.  Ambassador Pyatt also visited Lviv’s only functioning synagogue – the beautifully-restored 1925 Beis Aharon V’Yrisrael Synagogue (known as the Tori Gilead Synagogue before the war), where he met with Rabbi Bald – the Chief Rabbi of Lviv and Western Ukraine – to discuss those issues important to Lviv’s present-day Jewish community.

Ambassador Pyatt Visits the Building Where Sholem Aleichem Once Lived
Ambassador Pyatt Visits the Building Where Sholem Aleichem Once Lived

Looking forward to the future, Ambassador Pyatt completed his visit of Jewish Lviv by visiting the building where Sholem Aleichem once lived.   Born near Pereyaslav, Sholem Aleichem (born Sholem Rabinovich) died in New York City making him one of the many points of connection which continue to bind the U.S. and Ukraine together to this day.  In October 2013, the U.S. Embassy will bring Joe Dorman – director of the wonderful documentary film Sholem Aleichem:  Laughing in the Darkness (2011) – to Ukraine in order to present his film in both Kyiv and Lviv.  This event will mark one more way in which the U.S. Embassy will help pay tribute to Lviv’s rich Jewish past.

An Unlikely Friendship

Posted by: Larry Socha, Consular Officer

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Portrait of Ira Aldridge by Taras Shevchenko
Portrait of Ira Aldridge by Taras ShevchenkoI

Earlier this month, touring the National Museum of Taras Shevchenko, I was surprised to find the portrait of an American painted by Taras Shevchenko’s own hand.  I was ever more surprised that it wasn’t of an American ambassador passing through St. Petersburg or a wealthy industrialist on his European Grand Tour, but rather the African-American actor, Ira Aldridge.  How could these two have met I wondered immediately.  Geographic, cultural, and social barriers should have prevented their paths from crossing, but here was this painting of the African-American actor from New York City staring at me in the center of Kyiv.

Aldridge and Shevchenko met in the winter of 1858-9, both far from their homelands.  Aldridge grew up in New York City, a free man, but still subject to the racist discrimination of the day.  Shevchenko, forbidden from returning to his native Ukraine, arrived in St. Petersburg after ten long years in exile in the Urals.

One could say it was their creative genius that brought them together.  By 1858, Aldridge was one of the best known actors in Europe.  He debuted on the London stage in 1825 in the title role of the Shakespearian play, Othello.  His portrayal required none of the black face paint actors normally applied for the role.  While criticized in the press, not least due to the color of his skin, audiences received him enthusiastically.  In 1852, he launched his continental European tour and became the first man of color to star in white Shakespearian roles.  His performances won him praise.  King Leopold I of Belgium became his patron.  King Frederick William III awarded him the Prussian Gold Medal for Arts and Sciences.  When he arrived in the Russian capital in 1858, he was one of the highest paid actors of his times.

Shevchenko too captivated his audience’s attention.  In print, Kobzar published in 1840 was lauded for its clarity, elegance, and expression.  In paint, Picturesque Ukraine captured with deliberate, realistic detail the oppressive conditions of daily Ukrainian life.  However, while Shevchenko may have won public praise, he earned the political elite’s ire, and by 1858 had only just returned to St. Petersburg.

On December 6, 1858, Shevchenko wrote, “The African actor is here now; he does wonders on the stage.  He shows us the living Shakespeare.”  In the company of friends, and at times in conversation alone, the two great artists spent many days together in the brief span of two months.  Contemporary accounts tell of their expressive exchanges as their interpreters struggled to keep pace.  Shevchenko and Aldridge performed songs for one another, traditional Ukrainian folk melodies and Negro spirituals.  Aldridge posed on a number of occasions in Shevchenko’s studio, the results of which hang, both in the National Museum of Taras Shevchenko in Kyiv, and in the Ira Aldridge Theater on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC.

The story of Ira Aldridge and Taras Shevchenko is one of friendship, but also one of freedom.  Both men sought freedom in the power of their words.  Both drew inspiration from real human struggle, slavery and serfdom.   They were men ahead of their time whose examples inspire us in our own.