An American in Ukraine: Reflections on the Anniversary of the Birth of Taras Shevchenko

Posted by: Pauletta Walsh, Assistant Information Officer, U.S. Embassy Kyiv

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Taras Shevchenko museum, Kyiv, 2017For the habitual voyager, arriving in a new country is the ultimate traveling experience.  The sights and smells, the vistas of fresh landscapes, the architecture, all officially announce an adventure has begun.  Diplomats may be some of the best explorers in history, from Ibn Battuta, to Machiavelli, and Benjamin Franklin.  They leave their homeland in the service of their leaders, and depart with a profound understanding of other citizens and cultures.

I arrived in Ukraine just in time for the New Year.  Bundled against the cold, I began my exploration of the city.  With encouragement from colleagues at U.S. Embassy Kyiv, I will blog about my discovery of Kyiv and Ukraine.

Taras Shevchenko museum, Kyiv, 2017
On March 9, Ukrainians celebrated the 203rd Anniversary of the birth of Taras Shevchenko, the beloved poet, writer and civil activist who is often called the father of Ukrainian literature.  To mark the occasion, U.S. Embassy diplomats recorded some of Shevchenko’s verses. With an Embassy group that included Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and her mother, Miss Nadia, I toured the Shevchenko Museum to discover more.
Taras Shevchenko museum, Kyiv, 2017
The Taras Shevchenko Museum is located in Shevchenko’s beloved Kyiv in a mansion formerly owned by a wealthy sugar magnate.  This juxtaposition of housing the most comprehensive collection of artifacts, paintings and memorabilia from Shevchenko’s life, surrounded by such opulence is ironic and poignant.  For Ukrainians, Shevchenko is the premiere national hero.  Son of a serf, at once a novelist and a painter, a poet and a prisoner, Shevchenko was a celebrity and political figure, who finally returned home to the area near the town of Kaniv, to be buried after his death.  To a new generation of Ukrainians, those born after the Soviet era, raised with a unique identity, and who came of age in the era of EuroMaidan, Shevchenko’s dream of Ukrainian freedom resonates with renewed vigor.  The museum provides an opportunity for foreigners and natives alike to make his acquaintance and to draw lessons from his writings on the past and future of Ukraine.
Taras Shevchenko museum, Kyiv, 2017The museum is housed in one of the many beautiful buildings that grace the cobblestoned streets in the old city.  It opens on to a modern glass atrium, with ample room for a collection of modern art.  Progressing up the marble staircase to the second floor, I walked through room after room adorned with paintings, drawings, and books.  I learned of the Cossack history of Ukraine, and then was led step by step through the various stages of Shevchenko’s life.  Shevchenko’s life story is well known in Ukraine.  Born in 1814, Shevchenko grew up in poverty, was orphaned at the age of 11, and yet managed to acquire an education working as an apprentice to a teacher and deacon.  His early life was dictated by the whims of his masters, yet his time in Vilnius was productive in providing him with an artist’s training.  His subsequent travel with his master to the Russian capital of St. Petersburg changed his life.  Shevchenko was accepted to the Imperial Academy of Arts, and was able to study painting.  More importantly for the history of Ukrainian literature, he began to write poetry.  He also became acquainted with other Ukrainians diaspora artists, one who bought him his freedom in 1838.  In 1840, his first book of poetry, “Kobzar” was published.  This was the beginning of a new chapter, one that would bring him into conflict with the Russian Imperial family and others in the ruling class whose patronage he needed to survive.  Subsequently he penned poems in Ukrainian, where he was critical of the system of serfdom and of the regime of Tsar Nicholas I.  Shevchenko’s last prison sentence was serving six years at a penal colony in Novopetrovsk. On his release, he returned to St. Petersburg where he continued writing until his death at the age of 47 on March 10, 1861, seven days before the emancipation of the serfs.

Taras Shevchenko museum, Kyiv, 2017But what exactly did the Russian Empire fear?  I looked for those verses that resonated then as now, to understand the Ukrainian identity and their heart that longs for freedom.
When I am dead, bury me
In my beloved Ukraine,
My tomb upon a grave mound high
Amid the spreading plain,
So that the fields, the boundless steppes,
The Dnieper’s plunging shore
My eyes could see, my ears could hear
The mighty river roar.

When from Ukraine the Dnieper bears
Into the deep blue sea
The blood of foes … then will I leave
These hills and fertile fields —
I’ll leave them all and fly away
To the abode of God,
And then I’ll pray …. But till that day
I nothing know of God.

Oh bury me, then rise ye up
And break your heavy chains
And water with the tyrants’ blood
The freedom you have gained.
And in the great new family,
The family of the free,
With softly spoken, kindly word
Remember also me.

Taras Shevchenko
1845, Pereiaslav
Translated by John Weir 

Information about visiting the museum: website, FB, VK

U.S. Company Earth Networks Partners with Ukraine Hydrometeorology Institute to Provide Real-time Weather Warnings Across Ukraine on a 24/7 Basis

Posted by: Michele Smith, Commercial Officer, Olena Stephanska, Senior Commercial Specialist, and Anatoliy Sakhno, Commercial Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service Ukraine

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On October 25 in Kyiv, a U.S. company Earth Networks (EN) and its partner, the Ukraine Hydrometeorology Institute (UHMI) publicly launched their nationwide Severe Weather Early Warning System (EWS) for Ukraine.  The EWS provides real-time warning of heavy rains, high winds, and hail, which is used by government agencies and customers like civil aviation authorities, to save lives.

AP Photo
AP Photo

 

In addition to its sensors in Ukraine, EN has more than 10,000 additional sensors worldwide.  EN integrates the information provided by these sensors with information from the U.S. National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Organization.  This extensive weather network – in conjunction with proprietary forecasting algorithms and technology – provides the most current conditions, refreshed every few minutes, from more than 2.6 million locations worldwide.

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U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation in this area began in early 2016 when EN and UHMI signed a cooperation agreement.  Immediately following this, EN installed 12 sensors in Ukraine, allowing EN and UHMI to launch their Severe Weather Early Warning System in July.  Moving forward, UHMI and EN plan to jointly market and sell their weather data services to businesses and government organizations.  Ukraine’s civil aviation authority is already a customer and EN and UHMI plan to bring more clients into the network over the next several years.

To demonstrate the full capability and value of their meteorological data services, EN, UMHI, and the U.S. Commercial Service in Kyiv recently conducted a seminar for prospective end-users.  George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine welcomed over 30 attendees from both the government and private sectors including; the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Authority, as well as multiple airports, energy companies, gas station chains, and agricultural companies.

AP Photo
AP Photo

In his opening remarks, Mr. Kent underscored the importance of the EN-UMHI partnership:  “Today’s event is not only a seminar about a useful technology with life-saving public benefits, but it is also about international collaboration.  This system is the product of collaboration between two innovative companies – Earth Networks from the United States and the Ukrainian Hydro-Meteorology Institute.”

Indeed, the EN-UHMI partnership represents another step for Ukraine towards global integration, given that various mission-critical organizations in the U.S. and EU are already part of this global network.  For example, EN’s global network, which now includes Ukraine, also includes countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Georgia, Turkey, and Israel.

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

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.

INL Ukraine Partners with Ministry of Justice on Free Legal Aid Centers

Posted by: Kate McFarland, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ Office of Europe and Asia (INL/EA)

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3The Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) has been supporting Ukraine’s key criminal justice institutions in line with European and Western standards. One program that INL has been assisting is the Coordination Centre for Legal Aid Provision (CCLAP) to help reform the Ministry of Justice. The types of things that this INL-supported program is doing for Ukrainians are making changes to the framework of the criminal justice system more transparent and accountable.

One area that has been affected by this is the Free Legal Aid System, where constitutionally provided defense lawyers are better trained to meet the needs of regular Ukrainian citizens. Citizens who are unable to afford legal representation in court are provided free and effective legal assistance by the Government of Ukraine. Prior to the introduction of Free Legal Aid, defense lawyers were often considered informal mediators who negotiated the size of the bribe between judges and defendants, instead of defending their clients. Now, free legal aid lawyers, bolstered by training on the country’s new Criminal Procedure Code, have the professional skillset to appropriately represent their clients. This program is delivering tangible results: of all acquittals last year in Ukraine, nearly two-thirds of the cases were won by free legal aid attorneys. As an example, a free legal aid lawyer in Kherson was appointed to defend a person who was falsely accused of murder and faced a life sentence. The lawyer acted professionally at trial and, as a result, his client was acquitted.

1In support of this Ministry of Justice initiative, INL provides approximately $1 million per year to provide technical assistance to the Free Legal Aid Centers, thereby enabling them to successfully defend their clients in criminal cases. To date, INL has supported CCLAP with two train-the-trainer seminars, where experts present on topics of concern to free legal aid trainers, who in turn relay or “cascade” the training to their regional colleagues. This train-the-trainers format has enabled the delivery of continuing education through 52 trainers, more than 100 trainings, and approximately 2,000 legal aid lawyers throughout Ukraine. Last year, trainings focused on hot topics for legal aid lawyers, including protection in national security and war crimes, as well as protection in illicit drug criminal cases.

For more information about the Free Legal Aid Centers, including news and updates, a list of services they provide, and contact information for Regional and Local Centers, please use the following link: http://legalaid.gov.ua/

 

An American Folk Band in Ukraine: An interview with Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards

Posted by: Lesia Trachuk, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy Kyiv

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Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016
Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016

Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards, an American folk music band based in Boston, Massachusetts, toured Ukraine March 1-6, with concerts in Kharkiv and Kyiv. During their stay in Ukraine, the group also offered workshops, master classes, and presentations on what draws them to traditional American music.

Band leader Laura Cortese shared her thoughts and impressions about the group’s Ukrainian tour with the U.S. Embassy.

How did you decide to tour Ukraine? 

We are on a multi-country tour arranged through the State Department’s American Music Abroad program.  American Music Abroad has been sending American musicians all over the world for many years.  It’s a really competitive program.  First, there’s an open audition process.  This year, over 400 bands applied.  A small number of those are selected for live auditions, and 10 bands are chosen to participate.  American Music Abroad works with Embassies all over the world to decide which groups tour where, depending on what they think would appeal to local audiences.  On this trip, we have already been to Estonia and Greece.  This week, we’re here in Ukraine, and then we are going to Montenegro.

Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016
Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016

What do you think of the Ukrainians you’ve met so far? 

We had an incredible night in Kharkiv last night.  [Note: The group played at Fabrika, and the place was packed.]  I think that was the best audience we’ve had so far this tour.  From the very first song, they were clapping along. I think the audience was maybe 70 % college age students, and I think that has a lot to do with why they were so receptive and responsive, but really everyone in the audience were with us, they sang along. There was even one guy who got up when we said — Hey, who’s gonna dance?  He was a beautiful dancer. That was amazing.

Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016
Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards in Kyiv, Atlas, March 2016

We did a masterclass and a press conference at the National Academy of Arts in Kharkiv.  What was exciting about that was that there were a lot of questions about music education in the States.  We had a chance to explain that every place is different, every state is different, every city is different, and every individual experience is different.  People also wanted to know what it’s like to be an independent musician, making a living as an entrepreneur. We also talked about the roots of the Appalachian Mountains music that we play. It’s a mix of 17th century Scottish fiddle music and African music, both traditions coming together in the United States.

And we also got to meet an instructor who’s a balalaika player.  We got to collaborate and play together, and it was really cool. He knew the bluegrass style and it was really fun.

Can you describe your music in three words?

Indie, Chamber, Folk.

Do you know any Ukrainian musicians, composers, or songs?  Do you have any favorites? 

Before we came to Ukraine, we didn’t know much at all.  As we were getting ready to come, we were listening to music online, and we heard Chervona Ruta. It’s a fun, upbeat song, and there are lots of different versions.  We haven’t learned it yet, but it’s been stuck in our heads ever since.

 

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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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.