Ukraine country profile
- 16 February 2016
- From the section Europe
Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and has since veered between seeking closer integration with Western Europe and being drawn into the orbit of Russia, which sees its interests as threatened by a Western-leaning Ukraine.
Europe's second largest country, Ukraine is a land of wide, fertile agricultural plains, with large pockets of heavy industry in the east.
While Ukraine and Russia share common historical origins, the west of the country has closer ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland, and nationalist sentiment is strongest there.
A significant minority of the population uses Russian as its first language, particularly in the industrialised east. In Crimea, an autonomous republic on the Black Sea that was part of Russia until 1954, ethnic Russians make up about 60% of the population.
Russia once again seized and annexed Crimea in March 2014, amid the chaos following the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych, plunging European into its worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War.
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President: Petro Poroshenko
Petro Poroshenko won the presidential election of May 2014 at a time of crisis which saw the ouster of his predecessor, the loss of the region of Crimea to Russia and a Russian-backed separatist rebellion in the east of the country.
A billionaire chocolate factory owner, Mr Poroshenko won an unprecedented first round victory in the elections which were held three months after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was chased from office by crowds following months of street protests.
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National media have adopted a united patriotic agenda following the Russian annexation of Crimea and armed conflict in the east. Ukraine has banned cable relays of leading Russian TVs; in turn, areas under Russian or separatist control have seen pro-Kiev outlets silenced.
Television dominates the media scene, and private commercial channels are the most watched outlets.
Powerful business groups are influential in the market. Half a dozen major networks, including Inter TV and 1+1, attract the biggest audiences.
As part of reforms, Ukraine launched a public service TV broadcaster in 2015.
Many newspapers publish Ukrainian and Russian-language editions. The press is diverse in terms of formats and political affiliation.
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Some key dates in Ukraine's history:
1917 - Central Rada (Council) set up in Kiev following collapse of Russian Empire.
1918 - Ukraine declares independence: Ukrainian People's Republic set up. Numerous rival governments vie for control for some or all of Ukraine during ensuing civil war.
1921 - Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic established as Russian Red Army conquers two-thirds of Ukraine.
1932 - Approximately 7 million peasants perish in man-made famine during Stalin's collectivisation campaign.
1941 - Ukraine suffers terrible wartime devastation as Nazis occupy the country until 1944.
1945 - Allied victory in Second World War leads to conclusive Soviet annexation of western Ukrainian lands.
1986 - A reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station explodes, sending a radioactive plume across Europe.
1991 - As the Soviet Union heads towards dissolution, Ukraine declares independence.
2004 - Orange Revolution: Mass protests force a change of government.
2013 November - Kremlin-backed government scuttles planned association agreement with the European Union, triggering three months of demonstrations in Kiev which eventually lead to parliament sacking President Viktor Yanukovych.
2014 February - Russia seizes Crimea.
2014 April - Pro-Russian separatists seize towns and cities in the east, sparking a drawn out conflict.
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