Ukraine country profile

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Map of Ukraine

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 has been strongest there.

A significant minority of the population uses Russian as its first language, particularly in the cities and the industrialised east.

An uprising against pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 ushered in a series of Western-leaning governments.

But Russia used the opportunity to seize the Crimean peninsula and arm insurgent groups to occupy parts of the east, eventually launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.


  • Capital: Kyiv
  • Area: 603,550 sq km
  • Population: 43.5 million
  • Language: Ukrainian
  • Life expectancy: 68 years (men) 77 years (women)


President: Volodymyr Zelensky

Image source, Getty Images

Mr Zelensky's initial claim to fame was playing a fictional president in a television comedy programme, and his victorious election campaign echoed his character's anti-establishment stance.

His Servant of the People party went on to win early parliamentary elections in July 2019, giving him control of both the executive and the legislature.

In his inaugural address, President Zelensky said ending the Moscow-run insurgency in the east would be his priority, and he went on to rally Ukraine's resistance to the Russian invasion in 2022.

After the start of the invasion, he declared martial law across Ukraine and a general mobilisation of the armed forces. His leadership during the crisis has won him widespread international praise, and he has been described as a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance


Image source, Getty Images

National media have adopted a united patriotic agenda following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in the east.

Ukraine has banned relays of leading Russian TVs; in turn, areas under Russian or separatist control have seen pro-Kyiv outlets silenced.

The authorities also block access to some popular Russian websites and social networks.

Ukrainians have changed their media consumption since the start of the full-scale war, with social media replacing TV as a top news source for Ukrainians, new TV channels continuing to launch despite the conflict, and the complete loss of popularity of Russian outlets.


Some key dates in Ukraine's history:

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv

1918 - Ukraine declares independence after Russian Revolution.

1921 - Soviet rule established as Russian Red Army conquers two-thirds of Ukraine.

1932 - At least seven million peasants perish in man-made famine during Stalin's collectivisation campaign.

1941-44 - Ukraine suffers terrible wartime devastation during Nazis occupation.

1945 - Allied victory in Second World War leads to conclusive Soviet annexation of west 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 pro-European change of government.

2014 February - Maidan Revolution ousts pro-Kremlin government over stalled European Union association deal. Russia subsequently seizes Crimean peninsula and launches insurgency to occupy parts of eastern Ukraine.

2022 February - Russia launches full-scale invasion of Ukraine., President Volodymyr Zelensky rallies resistance to the invasion. Russia initially takes large areas of eastern Ukraine as part of its attempt to overthrow the government.

2022 Feb-April - Battle for Kyiv: Russia forces attempt to take Kyiv as part of their initial offensive. Ukrainian forces launch a counter-attack in March, driving the Russians back from the area.

2022 August-November - Ukraine launches a major counter-offensive in the south-east, recapturing the city of Kherson in November and pushing Russian forces back across the Dnipro river.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Ukrainian army retook Kherson in November 2022

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