Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Head of state:
President Viktor Yanukovych, since 2010.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, since 2010.
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Vast and vaguely mysterious, Ukraine is barely known to outsiders despite being one of the largest countries in Europe. Long associated with its colossal neighbour Russia, it’s a country of varied landscapes and surprising cultural diversity. The Carpathian Mountains that spill over the border with Poland, Hungary and Romania dominate the west of the country while flat plains carpeted with sunflowers and cereals make up much of the central and eastern region. To the south are the almost Mediterranean-like Black Sea coast and the Crimean Peninsula, which remains a huge draw for holidaymakers every summer.
Ukraine's capital, Kiev, founded in the eighth century, displays a heady mix of architecture befitting of a city that was once capital of Kievan Rus, the precursor of the modern Russian state. A wealth of baroque and Renaissance architecture can also be found in Lviv, one of Europe's oldest cities, while Odessa is probably best known for the Potemkin Stairway that featured in Sergei Eisenstein’s epic film The Battleship Potemkin.
Most visits to Ukraine are trouble-free but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate international terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
Travellers should be aware of petty crime, particularly in crowded areas, tourist spots and on public transport. There have been some reports of racially motivated attacks towards travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent, and travellers belonging to religious minorities.
As of November 2010, Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines remains on the European Commission’s list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the European Union. Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines, Ukraine Cargo Airways and Volare were previously on the list, but have been removed in the latest release.
This advice is based on information provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. It is correct at time of publishing. As the situation can change rapidly, visitors are advised to contact the following organisations for the latest travel advice: British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Tel: 020 7008 1500. Website: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice