Leonid Danylovich Kuchma
(pronounced "lee-a-NEED da-NEEL-o-vitch KOOCH-ma")
"The country needs a breakthrough towards new horizons as a gulp of fresh air."
Bounded by Poland, Romania, and Moldova to the west, the Black Sea to the south, Russia to the east, and Belarus to the north, Ukraine covers 603,700 sq km (233,100 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 48.4 million in 2002. The capital is the city of Kiev, which has 2.6 million inhabitants.
Its population is divided among several ethnic groups, with 77.8% Ukrainian, 17.3% Russian, and numerous other minorities. Ukrainian is the official language, similar to Russian in its use of the Cyrillic alphabet, although other languages can be used in official proceedings. Ukrainians profess a variety of religions, including Ukrainian Orthodox (both Moscow Patriarchate and Kiev Patriarchate), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic (Uniate), Protestant, and Jewish.
Long the breadbasket of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine consumes only half of the food it produces, exporting the rest to Russia and other states. It has a large industrial sector based on heavy industries, automobile production, and other consumer durables. In addition, it has sizable deposits of coal, petroleum, oil and gas, manganese, uranium, gypsum, and other minerals. The Ukrainian authorities are seeking to find export markets for all these products; to date, they have had most success in selling electric power to Eastern Europe. This power is produced by the more than 20 nuclear power stations in the republic. Chernobyl, scene of the world's worst nuclear plant accident, is located in the Ukraine.
Like Russia and the other post-Soviet successor states, Ukraine's economy has been in steep decline since independence. Its national currency, the hryvnia , has declined rapidly in value relative to the Russian ruble and other currencies since its introduction in the summer of 1992. In 1993, Ukraine suffered hyperinflation, with prices increasing over 10,000%. These changes, and the partial privatization in some areas, make estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) problematic. Estimates placed the inflation rate at 12% and the per capita GDP at US $4,200 as of 2001. Although Ukraine's economy is still badly struggling, Ukraine experienced export-based growth of 6% in 2000, the first growth since independence. In 2001, industrial output grew by over 14%, and GDP rose 9% to US $205 billion.
Office of the President
Government of the Republic of Ukraine