Ukraine General information
Ukraine is located in the central Europe at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Ukraine borders on Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. Having the total area of 603,700 sq.km, Ukraine is one of the biggest countries of Europe.
The country is subdivided into 24 regions (oblasts) and the Crimea - autonomous republic.
The capital is Kyiv ("Kiev" in Russian transliterations).
Ukraine is located in East-Europe plain. The most part of the country is in low-lying lands, fertile plains (steppes) with two highland areas: in the South -Crimean Mountains (the highest point: mt. Ramantkosh, 1,545 meters) and in the West - Carpathian Mountains (the highest point: mt. Hoverla, 2,061 meters).
Southern coast of Ukraine is washed by the Black and Azov Sea, coast line is 2,782 km. The majority of Ukrainian rivers flow into the Black Sea, among the biggest are Dnipro, Dnister, Danube, Desna, Pivdenyj (Southern) Booh.
Natural resources: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber and arable land.
The State language is Ukrainian. Many Ukrainians are bilingual and speak Russian as well. The latter is used more widely in the Crimea, Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk areas. Among foreign languages the most popular is English, though it is not possible to guarantee that you would meet plenty of Ukrainians speaking English fluently.
You will be impressed with quantity and quality of restaurants - national Ukrainian cuisine, European entrees, Italian Pizzerias or just fast food. Medium-range restaurants have affordable prices even for a traveler of modest means.
Ukrainian cuisine becomes more and more popular with its traditional Borsch - tomato red and sorrel green; several kinds of Ukrainian Vareniki (dumplings) stuffed with all kinds of meat, cheese, potatoes with mushrooms; Golubtsy (cabbage rolls) - cabbage leaves with mixture of rice, meat, carrot and fried onion inside, these are usually served with sour-cream; jellied meat with horse-radish; suckling pig; delicious stuffed fish and plenty of other Ukrainian specialties. Our cuisine is very rich in natural components grown in the fertile Ukrainian soil under the hot summer sun. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onion, lettuce, peaches, watermelons, apples, grapes - all vegetable and fruits produced in Ukraine taste really delicious.
We do not recommend drinking tap water. Use bottled water instead, even to brush your teeth. The water purification system in Ukraine still needs serious upgrade.
Speaking about drinking water, the majority of food stores and supermarkets in Ukraine have a big choice of bottled water: carbonated and non-carbonated, mineral or simple potable water.
The standard electricity supply in Ukraine is 220V/ 50 Hz. Ukrainian plugs are of the same type as the most European countries have - two round pins. If electric appliances you bring have different specs, make sure to pick-up a converter and/or plug adapter.
Most Ukrainian cities have extensive public transport system operating from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Buses, trams and trolleys are rather slow and shabby sometimes, but it is still a popular and inexpensive way to travel within the cities. Prices range from 50 kopecks to 2 hryvnas per ticket.
There are numerous taxi services, orders are taken via phone: you will be asked for a phone number, pick-up address and time. At the assigned time the taxi operator will call to the phone number you have given, and will inform on the taxi arrival confirming the taxi number. Bad thing: taxi operators usually do not speak English. Good thing: you can use help of your hotel receptionist, Russian-speaking friend, colleague or tour agent in ordering the taxi via the phone.
A taxi or a gypsy cab can be also hired right on the street. Services of gypsy cabs cost less, but are not that good choice from the safety point of view. If you still wish to use a gypsy cab, you would need to make sure there is nobody else inside but the driver. Probably everywhere the situation with taxi is like this - if one speaks a foreign language price for a taxi goes up, so it might be wise to confirm/negotiate the price before you get in the car.
Personnel of hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, guides, etc in Ukraine expect tips as in any other country. The tips amount depends on your satisfaction and the total of provided services. Customary tips are about 10% of the order amount at restaurants, bars, etc. There is no obligation to tip the waiters, like any other personnel, but it is expected since tips are the major part of their income. Guides, interpreters, tour-drivers, hotel porters count on tips too. Greedy for tips taxi-drivers are difficult to satisfy, though tipping of 5-10 hryvnas to the originally agreed cost is considered to be fair.
Ukraine is famous for its high-quality textile, as well as food products and drinks: delicatessen, caviar, confectionery, chocolate, juices, beer, vodka, wines and plenty of other things. Shops and markets accept for payment Hryvna only. Nowadays, more and more shops here start to accept credit cards (Visa or MasterCard/EuroCard). You can identify such places by credit cards signs on the entrance door or by the cashiers raw.
Buying a souvenir, a painting, a sculpture or other handcrafts it is a good idea to get a certificate identifying historical value (its absence) of the purchased good. This document might be useful when going through the customs upon departure from Ukraine.
State and public offices are opened from 9.00 to 18.00, Monday through Friday, usually with a lunch hour from 13.00.
The majority of stores are opened from 10.00 to 19.00 and closed on Sunday. A lunch hour is usually either from 13.00 to 14.00 or from 14.00 to 15.00.
As for food stores, many of them work 24 hours 7 days a week, a few - from 8.00 to 20.00. Usual work time for cafes and restaurants is from 10-12.00 until last customer leaves.
Most banks are open to public from 9.00 to 15.00 with a lunch hour from 13.00 to 14.00 and are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
There are plenty of Holidays in Ukraine, and list of the National Holidays can be seen at the bottom of this section.
To shed some light on how Sundays become working days or how so many off-business days happen to be in a row, we have put together the general rules for figuring it out.
Ukraine is a republic with a constitutional and democratic form of government, headed by the President. The power is divided among executive, legislative and judicial branches.
According to the Ukrianian Law, extra days-off appear if a state holiday occurs on a weekend. The government also issues directives shifting some working days for Saturdays or Sundays in case there are several holidays in a row, to prolong off-business time. This way we have some working Saturdays in December or January, and a long chain of holidays and days-off in the beginning of January, sometimes up to two weeks long. The same happens in the first half of May.
Basing on "good traditions", these governmental directives are issued and announced last minute. We should admit, that private businesses do not or cannot follow them, due to the short notice or willing to keep the businesses going on holidays as well. While all state organizations and offices would be closed, as long as there is a directive.
Banks have their holidays in accordance to the National Bank directive, which issue it basing on the governmental ones
President of Ukraine: Victor Yuschenko (elected in 2004 by the popular vote for a five-year term). The President approves Prime Minister and designates regional governors.
Executive branch: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the Parliament and approved by the President. Prime Minister: Victor Yanukovich (since Sep 2006).
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament of 450 seats. Under Ukraine's election law, all of the Parliament seats are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain 3% or more of the national electoral vote.
Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Poland and Russia
Geographic coordinates: 49 00 N, 32 00 E
Map references: Commonwealth of Independent States
total: 603,700 sq km
land: 603,700 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Texas
total: 4,558 km
border countries: Belarus 891 km, Hungary 103 km, Moldova 939 km, Poland 428 km, Romania (southwest) 169 km, Romania (west) 362 km, Russia 1,576 km, Slovakia 90 km
Coastline: 2,782 km
continental shelf: 200-m or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea : 12 nm
Climate: temperate continental; Mediterranean only on the southern Crimean coast; precipitation disproportionately distributed, highest in west and north, lesser in east and southeast; winters vary from cool along the Black Sea to cold farther inland; summers are warm across the greater part of the country, hot in the south
Terrain: most of Ukraine consists of fertile plains (steppes) and plateaus, mountains being found only in the west (the Carpathians), and in the Crimean Peninsula in the extreme south
lowest point: Black Sea 0 m
highest point: Hora Hoverla 2,061 m
Natural resources: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber
arable land: 58%
permanent crops: 2%
permanent pastures : 13%
forests and woodland: 18%
other: 9% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 26,050 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment - current issues: inadequate supplies of potable water; air and water pollution; deforestation; radiation contamination in the northeast from 1986 accident at Chornobyl' Nuclear Power Plant
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Climate Change, Law of the Sea
Geography - note: strategic position at the crossroads between Europe and Asia; second-largest country in Europe
Population: 50,447,719 (July 1997 est.)
0-14 years: 19% (male 5,000,518; female 4,802,193)
15-64 years: 67% (male 16,087,147; female 17,429,313)
65 years and over: 14% (male 2,308,354; female 4,820,194) (July 1997 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.65% (1997 est.)
Birth rate: 9.55 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)
Death rate: 16.26 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.23 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.92 male(s)/female
65 years and over : 0.48 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (1997 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 21.9 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 65.77 years
male: 59.93 years
female: 71.91 years (1997 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.36 children born/woman (1997 est.)
Ethnic groups: Ukrainian 73%, Russian 22%, Jewish 1%, other 4%
Religions: Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate, Ukrainian Orthodox - Kiev Patriarchate, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate), Protestant, Jewish
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian
definition : age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
female: 97% (1989 est.)
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Ukraine
local long form: none
local short form: Ukrayina
former: Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
Data code: UP
Government type: republic
National capital: Kiev (Kyyiv)
Administrative divisions: 24 oblasti (singular - oblast'), 1 autonomous republic* (avtomnaya respublika), and 2 municipalities (mista, singular - misto) with oblast status**; Cherkas'ka (Cherkasy), Chernihivs'ka (Chernihiv), Chernivets'ka (Chernivtsi), Dnipropetrovs'ka (Dnipropetrovs'k), Donets'ka (Donets'k), Ivano-Frankivs'ka (Ivano-Frankivs'k), Kharkivs'ka (Kharkiv), Khersons'ka (Kherson), Khmel'nyts'ka (Khmel'nyts'kyy), Kirovohrads'ka (Kirovohrad), Kyyiv**, Kyyivs'ka (Kiev), Luhans'ka (Luhans'k), L'vivs'ka (L'viv), Mykolayivs'ka (Mykolayiv), Odes'ka (Odesa), Poltavs'ka (Poltava), Avtonomna Respublika Krym* (Simferopol'), Rivnens'ka (Rivne), Sevastopol'**, Sums'ka (Sumy), Ternopil's'ka (Ternopil'), Vinnyts'ka (Vinnytsya), Volyns'ka (Luts'k), Zakarpats'ka (Uzhhorod), Zaporiz'ka (Zaporizhzhya), Zhytomyrs'ka (Zhytomyr)
note: oblasts have the administrative center name following in parentheses
Independence: 1 December 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 24 August (1991)
Constitution: adopted 28 June 1996
Legal system: based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state : President Leonid D. KUCHMA (since 19 July 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Pavlo LAZARENKO (since NA May 1996), First Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl DURDYNETS (since NA July 1996), and three deputy prime ministers
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president and approved by the Supreme Council
note: there is also a National Security and Defense Council or NSDC originally created in 1992 as the National Security Council, but significantly revamped and strengthened under President KUCHMA; the NSDC includes the president, prime minister, ministers of defense, internal affairs, foreign relations, and chairman of the security service; the NSC staff is tasked with developing national security policy on domestic and international matters and advising the president; a Presidential Administration that helps draft presidential edicts and provides policy support to the president; and a Council of Regions that serves as an advisory body created by President KUCHMA in September 1994 that includes the Kiev and Sevastopol City Supreme Councils and the chairmen of Oblast
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 26 June and 10 July 1994 (next to be held NA 1999); prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president and approved by the Supreme Council
election results: Leonid D. KUCHMA elected president; percent of vote - Leonid KUCHMA 52.15%, Leonid KRAVCHUK 45.06%
Legislative branch: unicameral Supreme Council or Verkhovna Rada (450 seats; members are elected by popular vote from one-member districts by complex procedures to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 27 March 1994 with repeat elections continuing through December 1998 to fill empty seats (next to be held NA March 1998)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Communists 91, Rukh 22, Agrarians 18, Socialists 15, Republicans 11, Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists 5, Labor 5, Party of Democratic Revival 4, Democrats 2, Social Democrats 2, Civil Congress 2, Conservative Republicans 1, Party of Economic Revival of Crimea 1, Christian Democrats 1, independents 225; note - most recent repeat election held in April 1996 filling 422 of 450 seats as follows: independents 238, Communist 95, Rukh 22, Agrarians 18, Socialist 15, Republicans 11, Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists 5, Labor 5, Party of Democratic Revival 4, Democratic Party of Ukraine 2, Social Democrats 2, Civil Congress 2, Conservative Republicans 1, Party of Economic Revival of Crimea 1, Christian Democrats 1, vacant 28 (in February 1997 there were 35 vacant seats)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court; Constitutional Court
Political parties and leaders: Green Party of Ukraine [Vitaliy KONONOV, leader]; Liberal Party of Ukraine; Liberal Democratic Party of Ukraine [Volodymyr KLYMCHUK, chairman]; Democratic Party of Ukraine [Volodymyr Oleksandrovych YAVORIVSKIY, chairman]; People's Party of Ukraine; Peasants' Party of Ukraine; Party of Democratic Rebirth or Revival of Ukraine [Volodymyr FILENKO, chairman]; Social Democratic Party of Ukraine [Vasyl ONOPENKO, chairman]; Socialist Party of Ukraine [Oleksandr MOROZ, chairman]; Ukrainian Christian Democratic Party [Vitaliy ZHURAVSKYY, chairman]; Ukrainian Conservative Republican Party [Stepan KHMARA, chairman]; Ukrainian Labor Party [Valentyn LANDYK, chairman]; Ukrainian Party of Justice [Yuriy ZUBKO, chairman]; Ukrainian Peasants' Democratic Party [Serhiy PLACHINDA, chairman]; Ukrainian Republican Party [Bondan YAROSHPSKYY, chairman]; Ukrainian National Conservative Party; Ukrainian People's Movement for Restructuring or Rukh [Vyacheslav CHORNOVIL, chairman]; Ukrainian Communist Party [Petr SYMONENKO]; Agrarian Party; Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists [Slava STESTKO]; Civil Congress [O. BAZYLUK]; Party of Economic Revival of Crimea; Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine [Nataliya VITRENKO and Volodymyr MARCHENKO, leaders]; People's Democratic Party [Anatoliy MATVIYENKO, chairman]
Political pressure groups and leaders: New Ukraine (Nova Ukrayina); Congress of National Democratic Forces
International organization participation: BSEC, CCC, CE, CEI, CIS, EBRD, ECE, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NACC, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNAVEM III, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMIBH, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNPREDEP, UNTAES, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission : Ambassador Yuriy Mikolayevych SHCHERBAK
chancery: 3350 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone:  (202) 333-0606
FAX:  (202) 333-0817
consulate(s) general : Chicago and New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador William Green MILLER
embassy: 10 Yuria Kotsyubinskovo, 254053 Kiev 53
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone:  (44) 244-7345
FAX:  (44) 244-7350
Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of azure (top) and golden yellow represent grainfields under a blue sky
Economy - overview: 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 equipment and raw materials to industrial and mining sites in other regions of the former USSR. Shortly after the implosion of the USSR in December 1991, the Ukrainian Government liberalized most prices and erected a legal framework for privatization, but widespread resistance to reform within the government and the legislature soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking. Output in 1992-96 fell precipitously to less than half the 1991 level. Loose monetary policies pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels in late 1993. Since his election in July 1994, President KUCHMA has pushed a comprehensive economic reform program, maintained financial discipline, and tried to remove almost all remaining controls over prices and foreign trade. Implementation of KUCHMA's economic agenda is encountering considerable resistance from parliament, entrenched bureaucrats, and industrial interests. However, if KUCHMA succeeds in implementing aggressive market reforms during 1997, the economy should reverse its downward trend, with real growth occurring by late 1997 and into 1998.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $161.1 billion (1996 estimate as extrapolated from World Bank estimate for 1994)
GDP - real growth rate: -10% (1996 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $3,170 (1996 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture : 14%
services: 41% (1995 est.)
Inflation rate - consumer price index: 40% (yearend 1996)
total: 23 million (January 1996)
by occupation: industry and construction 33%, agriculture and forestry 21%, health, education, and culture 16%, trade and distribution 7%, transport and communication 7%, other 16% (1992)
Unemployment rate: 1% officially registered; large number of unregistered or underemployed workers (December 1996)
expenditures: $NA, including capital expenditures of $NA
Industries: coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food-processing (especially sugar)
Industrial production growth rate: -5.1% (1996 est.)
Electricity - capacity: 54.24 million kW (1994)
Electricity - production: 181 billion kWh (1996)
Electricity - consumption per capita: 3,487 kWh (1996)
Agriculture - products: grain, sugar beets, vegetables; meat, milk
total value : $18.6 billion (1996 est.)
commodities: coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, grain, meat
partners: Russia, Belarus, US, Germany, China (1995)
total value : $19.4 billion (1996 est.)
commodities: energy, machinery and parts, transportation equipment, chemicals, textiles
partners: Russia, Turkmenistan, Belarus, Germany, Switzerland
Debt - external: $8.8 billion (including $4.5 billion to Russia) (late 1995 est.)
recipient: ODA, $220 million (1993)
note : commitments, 1992-95, $4.5 billion ($4.1 billion drawn)
Currency: on 2 September 1996, Ukraine introduced the long-awaited hryvnia (plural hryvni) as its national currency, replacing the karbovanets (in circulation since 12 November 1992) at a rate of 100,000 karbovantsi to 1 hryvnia
Exchange rates: hryvnia per US$1 - 1.8592 (November 1996), 1.4731 (1995), 0.3275 (1994), 0.0453 (1993)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Telephone system: system is unsatisfactory both for business and for personal use; 3.56 million applications for telephones had not been satisfied as of January 1991; electronic mail services have been established in Kiev, Odessa, and Luhans'k by Sprint
domestic: an NMT-450 analog cellular telephone network operates in Kiev (Kyyiv) and allows direct dialing of international calls through Kiev's digital exchange
international: calls to other CIS countries are carried by landline or microwave radio relay; calls to 167 other countries are carried by satellite or by the 150 leased lines through the Moscow international gateway switch; satellite earth stations - NA Intelsat, 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean Regions), and NA Intersputnik
Radio broadcast stations: 2 radio broadcast stations of NA type
Radios: 15 million (1990)
Television broadcast stations: at least 2
Televisions: 17.3 million (1992)
total : 23,350 km
broad gauge: 23,350 km 1.524-m gauge (8,600 km electrified)
total: 172,257 km
paved: 163,300 km (including 1,875 km of expressways); note - these roads are said to be hard-surfaced, meaning that some are paved and some are all-weather gravel surfaced
unpaved: 8,957 km (1995 est.)
Waterways: 4,400 km navigable waterways, of which 1,672 km were on the Pryp''yat' and Dnistr (1990)
Pipelines: crude oil 2,010 km; petroleum products 1,920 km; natural gas 7,800 km (1992)
Ports and harbors: Berdyans'k, Illichivs'k, Izmayil, Kerch, Kherson, Kiev (Kyyiv), Mariupol', Mykolayiv, Odesa, Reni
total : 301 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,507,463 GRT/3,156,522 DWT
ships by type: barge carrier 5, bulk 21, cargo 192, chemical tanker 2, combination bulk 1, container 10, multifunction large-load carrier 3, oil tanker 23, passenger 7, passenger-cargo 4, railcar carrier 2, refrigerated cargo 5, roll-on/roll-off cargo 20, short-sea passenger 6
note : Ukraine owns an additional 61 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 1,283,735 DWT operating under the registries of The Bahamas, Cyprus, Liberia, Malta, Panama, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1996 est.)