Ukraine

Map of Ukraine
Map of Ukraine

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the east; Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to the west; Romania and Moldova to the southwest; and the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to the south. The city of Kiev (Kyiv) is both the capital and the largest city of Ukraine.

Ukraine is a unitary state composed of 24 oblasts (provinces), one autonomous republic (Crimea), and two cities with special status: Kiev, its capital, and Sevastopol, which houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet under a leasing agreement. Ukraine is a republic under a semi-presidential system with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

The country is home to 46 million people, 77.8 percent of whom are ethnic Ukrainians, with sizable minorities of Russians, Belarusians and Romanians. At 603,550 sq km and with a coastline of 2,782 kilometres, Ukraine is the world's 45th-largest country. It is the largest whole-Europe country and the second largest country in Europe.

After Russia, the Ukrainian republic was far and away the most important economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four times the output of the next-ranking republic. Its fertile black soil generated more than one-fourth of Soviet agricultural output, and its farms provided substantial quantities of meat, milk, grain, and vegetables to other republics. Likewise, its diversified heavy industry supplied the unique equipment (for example, large diameter pipes) and raw materials to industrial and mining sites (vertical drilling apparatus) in other regions of the former USSR.

Odessa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast (province) located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 (as of the 2001 census).

Odessa is a warm water port, but militarily it is of limited value. Turkey's control of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus has enabled NATO to control water traffic between Odessa and the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Odessa hosts two important ports: Odessa itself and Yuzhne (also an internationally important oil terminal), situated in the city's suburbs. Another important port, Illichivs'k, is located in the same oblast, to the south-west of Odessa. Together they represent a major transport hub integrating with railways. Odessa's oil and chemical processing facilities are connected to Russia's and EU's respective networks by strategic pipelines.

Sevastopol is a port city in Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimea peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 (2001). The city, formerly the home of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet, is now home to a Ukrainian naval base and facilities leased by the Russian Navy and used as the headquarters of both the Ukrainian Naval Forces and Russia's Black Sea Fleet. In 1993 the city was a major territorial dispute between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Even after signing a friendship treaty the debate over the status of the city still continues almost 20 years later.

The unique geographic location and navigation conditions of the city's harbours make Sevastopol a strategically important naval point. It is also a popular seaside resort and tourist destination, mainly for visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries.

The trade and shipbuilding importance of Sevastopol's Port has been growing since the fall of the Soviet Union, despite the difficulties that arise from the joint military control over its harbours and piers.

Sevastopol is also an important centre of marine biology research. In particular, studying and training of dolphins has been conducted in the city since the end of World War II. It was first conducted as a secret naval program to use the animals for special undersea operations.