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Fact file: Ukraine at a glance

Ukrainians wave Ukrainian national and EU flags, hold banners as they protest outside Russian embassy after Moscow's decision to formally recognise two Russian-backed regions of eastern Ukraine as independent in central Kyiv, Ukraine, February 22, 2022. [Reuters]

Sirens blared in the morning sky on Thursday; a warning that it was happening.

This was the sound of war, not heard in Kyiv since World War II.

These were the scenes that signalled the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a threat long thought to be just that; a threat.

A full-scale attack from all angles made this nightmare a reality.

The US believes that Russia has launched 160 missiles at its neighbour, Ukraine, a nation known for its resolve now fighting for its future.

Thursday’s events opened another chapter in history for a country whose flag comprises of just two colours; blue and yellow. 

About Ukraine

The modern state of Ukraine is the second-largest country by size in Europe after Russia which borders it to the East and North East.

Ukraine was formed nearly 30 years ago after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Since then, the country has often made headlines due to political instability and the looming threat of a Russian invasion.

A person walks his dog in front of a damaged residential building, after Russia launched a massive military operation against Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine February 25, 2022. [Reuters]

 Ukraine also shares borders with other countries; Belarus to the north, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to the west, Romania and Moldova to the south.

It occupies an area of 603,628 km2.

Frosty relationship with Russia

Ukraine is separated from Russia by the Kerch Strait, which connects the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea, was part of the Russian empire for centuries, and was also part of the USSR.

It became independent in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved the Cold War.

There has been tension between Ukraine’s old ties to Russia and new allegiances with Western nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is now keen to regain control of the country’s former territories.

His favoured candidate in the 2004 Ukrainian election, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted for rigging the result after widespread protest.

Yanukovych did manage to regain power in 2010 but was ousted again in 2014 after he rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of bolstering relations with Moscow.

President and Government

The Government of Ukraine comprises a President and Prime Minister.

The President is elected by popular vote for a five-year term and is the formal Head of State.

Ukraine’s legislative branch consists of 450-seat unicameral parliament known as ‘Verkhovna Rada’.

Ukrainian lawmakers attend a session of parliament in Kyiv, Ukraine February 23, 2022. [Reuters]

The Parliament is primarily responsible for the formation of the executive branch and the Cabinet of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.

The President retains the authority to nominate the ministers of foreign affairs and of defence for parliamentary approval, as well as the power to appoint the prosecutor general and the head of the security service.

The current President is Volodymyr Zelensky who is the Head of State, while the Prime Minister is Denys Shmyhal who is the Head of Government.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. [Reuters]

Language

Although many languages are spoken in the country, the vast majority of people in Ukraine speak ‘Ukrainian’, which is written in a form of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The language, belonging to Russian and Belarusian to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic language family, is closely related to Russian but also has distinct similarities to the Polish language.

Population

The current population of Ukraine is 43,301,680 based on the latest United Nations data.

However, the population has been decreasing in the last three decades, down from 51 million people in 1990.

Around 78 per cent of the people in the country are native Ukrainians while 22 per cent of them are from other countries. 

Currency 

The official currency of the country is the Ukrainian Hryvnia (?) (UAH).

Apart from its beautiful and diverse landscape, Ukraine is known for the following: 

  • The deepest metro station in the world, Arsenal, is located in Ukraine. 
  • The literacy rate of Ukraine is about 99.8 per cent, the fourth-highest in the world. 
  • The average life expectancy rate is about 71.48 years. 
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Ukraine is the sixth-largest alcohol consuming country in the world. 
  • The most popular sports in Ukraine are football and boxing. 
  • It is the first country in the world to give up its nuclear arsenal.

Religion

The majority of the religion practised in Ukraine is Christianity.

Ukrainian’s worst nightmare of war with Russia has now been realized.

Thousands are trying to flee the capital, either stuck in traffic jams or unable to refuel at petrol stations despite skyrocketing fuel prices.

The government on the other hand is encouraging all Ukrainians to take up arms and fight against Russia.