Ukraine is a rapidly developing industrial and agricultural country in Eastern Europe. It is the second largest country in Europe (after Russia), with an area larger than France, Spain and Germany. It is here, to the west of the Carpathian Mountains, that the geographic centre of the European continent is situated.
Ukraine lies at the intersection of trade and transport routes from northern Europe to the south, Turkey, and from east to west, Russia and Asia to Central Europe. The country borders Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Belarus and Moldova. To the south are the Black and Azov seas, with convenient shipping routes to Turkey, Bulgaria, Russia and Georgia.
The country has declared its political and military neutrality and in economic issues it is aligned along European and Russo-Asian vectors.
In economic terms the country’s industrial east is the most developed — the Donbass (Donetsk, Lugansk) and Dnieper regions (Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye) as well as the cities of Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa and Lviv. The largest industrial corporations are Metinvest, Azovstal, ArcelorMittal Krivoy Rog, Interpipe, Industrial Union of Donbass, Stirol and Zaporizhstal. Their products account for 90% of the total exports of the ferrous metallurgy, pipe rolling, chemical, mining and by-product coke industries.
Machine-building plants assemble for export aircraft (the Antonov factory manufactures An aircraft, including the An-225 Mriya — the world’s largest cargo aircraft), sea and river vessels, military and space equipment (Oplot tanks, and MiG and Su fighter jets from Ukrspetsexport), precision equipment and cars (Bogdan, AvtoKrAZ, Lviv Automobile Plant and ZAZ).
Another important sector of the economy is the power industry. The country has four nuclear power plants, a series of hydropower plants on the Dnieper and Dniester rivers, and numerous thermal power stations. Ukraine exports electricity to Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia, Russia, Romania and Moldova.
The list of the 30 largest companies in Ukraine includes the grain traders Nibulon and Cargill, and MHP, a producer of poultry meat under the Nasha Ryaba trademark. Among the most expensive Ukrainian brands are the food and drink products of Sandora, Obolon, Chernig³vske, Torchin, Chumak, Veres, President, Korona, Svitoch and Lux; the mobile operators Kyivstar and Life; the pharmaceutical products of Darnitsa and Arterium; the building materials of Epicentre and Nova Linia; the retailers Silpo and Mobilochka; and the tour operator Bukovel.
Although domestic companies dominate in Ukraine’s heavy industry, in other sectors Ukrainian and international manufacturers are represented almost equally. Moreover, many Western companies have been working in the Ukrainian market for a long time — for example, Knauf in the construction industry; Bosch in the electronics, consumer goods and security sectors; Siemens and Junkers in the heating equipment industry; Alcatel and Huawei in the wireless technologies market; and BP and Shell in the fuel and energy industry. Global FMCG companies — including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft Foods, SUN Inbev, Coca-Cola and McDonalds — have established production facilities in the country.
Ukraine ranks 39th in the world for GDP. The country’s economy has grown rapidly during the past decade. The two-year recession after the global financial crisis has come to an end and in 2010 GDP growth was 4.4%.
The mild continental climate in most of the country and the fertile black earth soil of the steppe and forest steppe are favourable for agricultural activities — cultivating grain and fruit crops, and rearing livestock and poultry.
Historically, the convenient location of the country, at the intersection of routes «from the Vikings to the Greeks» and the Silk Route, explains the attractiveness of Ukraine for tourists. The Carpathian Mountains in the west attract skiing enthusiasts in the winter, and cycling, hunting, fishing and hiking enthusiasts in the summer. The Black Sea coast is a traditional destination for those wanting a beach holiday.
The most famous resort region is the Crimean peninsula. Here, the sea and mountains neighbour vineyards, curative mud baths, ancient castles and ruins, and the Livadia Palace in Yalta, where in 1945, the «Big Three» — Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin — decided the fate of the world. The headquarters of the Ukrainian and Russian fleet are based in Sevastopol, where it is possible to see cruisers and aircraft carriers alongside modern yachts and then visit the docks to see submarines.
Lviv is famous for its medieval architecture and numerous cafes serving fresh coffee, and Odessa has the Potemkin Steps, Opera House, legendary Privoz market, endless beaches and unique Odessa humour.
The greatest number of tourists visits the Ukrainian capital Kiev to see the historic heart of Kievan Rus, the St. Sophia Cathedral and the flowering chestnut trees — the symbol of the Ukrainian capital, which grow everywhere in Kiev — both on the city’s main street and in the numerous parks overlooking the Dnieper. Visitors can book a cruise on a large boat travelling along the Dnieper River from Kiev to the Black Sea or rent a yacht in Odessa, Mykolayiv or Balaklava (Crimea).
Tourism in Ukraine is booming. This year its contribution to the Ukrainian economy amounted to $10.1 billion, the third highest figure among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (World Travel and Tourism Council).
The Ukrainian authorities are highly receptive to the arrival of multinational corporations and always welcome investment in local markets. Improving the investment climate is one of the priorities of the country’s foreign and domestic policy.
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Languages: Ukrainian and Russian
Area: 603, 628km²
Population: 45.82 million
Currency: Ukrainian grivna (UAH)
GDP in 2010: $127.1 billion