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Country Profile

Area: 603,700sq km
Population: 45.7 million (2009 est.)
Capital city: Kyiv - population: 2.6 million (Dec 2001 census)
People: Ukrainian 77.8%, Russian 17.3%, other 5% (Dec 2001 census)
Languages: Ukrainian is the official language, but Russian is widely spoken, particularly in the East and South. There are small numbers of Romanian, Polish and Hungarian speakers, and about 250,000 Crimean Tatars.
Religion(s): Ukrainian Orthodox - Kyiv Patriarchate 50.4%, Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate 26.1%, Ukrainian Greek Catholic 8%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 7.2%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, Protestant 2.2%, Jewish 0.6%, other 3.2% (est. 2006)
Currency: 1 hryvnia=100 kopiykas
Major political groupings: Party of Regions (favours close relations with Russia, but also favours EU integration, most support in the East), Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence (both pro-market economy, pro-reform, pro-EU membership), Lytvyn Bloc (centrist alliance), Communist and various other parties and blocs.
Constitutional form: Presidential Parliamentary Republic
Head of State: President Viktor Yanukovych
Prime Minister/Premier: Mykola Azarov
Foreign Minister: Kostyantyn Gryshchenko

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Basic economic facts

Exchange rate: 7.99 hryvnvya (UAH) per US$1 (end 2011); 12.54 hryvnvya (UAH) per £1 (end 2011)
GDP: 2009 US$117.2bn ; 2010 US$ 137.9bn; 2011 US$ 154.6bn (projected)
GDP per head (PPP): 2010 US$ 6,716
Real annual GDP growth: 2007 7.9%; 2008 2.4%; 2009 -14.8%; 2010 4.2%; 2011 4.7% (projected)
Annual consumer inflation: 2008 22.3%; 2009 12.3%; 2010 9.1%; 2011 9% (projected)
Major industries: Coal, electric power, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, agriculture, food-processing (especially sugar)
Major trading partners: EU, CIS, China, US.
Further Information about Ukraine's economy can be found at: UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Ukraine ( .

Aid and development

On 22 December 2008 the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved the Third Development Policy Loan for Ukraine worth $500 million. In July 2010 the IMF Executive Board approved a $15.2 billion Stand By Arrangement for Ukraine in support of the authorities’ economic adjustment and reform programme. However in 2011 the IMF postponed the third tranche of this loan due to insufficient progress by the Ukrainian government on pension reform and the removal of domestic energy subsidies. , Major governmental aid organisations active in Ukraine include USAID and the EU.

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The Ukrainian people belong to the southern branch of the Eastern Slavs. Their ancestors came from Scandinavia in the 800s. The name 'Ukraina', which originated in the twelfth century, denotes borderland: the area lacks natural frontiers and has a troubled history. The territory which is now Ukraine had only brief periods of independence prior to 1991 – under the Cossacks from the fifteenth century until union with Russia in 1654, and very briefly after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The principality of Kievan Rus was established on the River Dnieper and its tributaries in the ninth century and Orthodox Christianity was established in the tenth. Kievan Rus became the centre of a great civilisation but fell in 1240 to the Mongols. They in turn were driven out by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1362. In 1569 the Grand Duchy merged with the Kingdom of Poland to form the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Following an uprising led by the Cossack leader, Bogdan Khmelnitsky, in 1654, Eastern Ukraine accepted Russian protection. A striking equestrian statue of Khmelnitsky pointing in the direction of Moscow stands in the centre of modern day Kyiv. Ukrainian autonomy in the east finally disappeared under the reign of Catherine the Great of Russia. When the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collapsed in 1795, Western Ukraine became part of the Habsburg Empire.

Nineteenth century Ukrainian writers and intellectuals, inspired by the nationalistic spirit stirring elsewhere in Europe, were determined to revive Ukrainian linguistic and cultural traditions in both Western Ukraine, which was controlled by the Habsburg Empire, and Eastern Ukraine, which was controlled by the Russian Empire. Russia in particular imposed strict limits on attempts to elevate the Ukrainian language and culture, even banning its use and study.

The chaotic events following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire in 1918 prompted Ukrainian nationalists to try to create an independent Ukraine. Between 1917 and 1918, three separate Ukrainian republics declared independence. None survived. By 1921 the western part of Ukraine had been incorporated into Poland while the larger, central and eastern part became part of the Soviet Union.
The Ukrainian national idea persevered during the interwar years. Soviet reactions were severe, particularly under Stalin, who imposed terror campaigns that ravaged the intellectual class. He also created artificial famines as part of his forced collectivisation of agriculture, killing millions of previously independent peasants and others throughout the country. Estimates of deaths from the 1932-33 famine alone range from 3 million to 7 million.

In 1939, under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Galacia (now western Ukraine) was occupied by the Soviet Union. During the Second World War Ukraine was under Nazi occupation from 1941 until 1944, and suffered grievously. Kyiv, Sevastapol and Kerch were awarded the Soviet title of Hero City for their resistance and suffering. Millions of Ukrainians fought in the Red Army against the Germans. Others fought with the Nazi invaders, some under duress and some hoping to establish an independent Ukraine. Resistance by the rebel bands continued up to the 1950s. At the end of the Second World War, Western Ukraine was re-annexed to Ukraine. Khrushchev ceded Crimea (until then part of the Russian Republic) to Ukraine in 1954 as a gift to mark the three hundredth anniversary of Khmelnitsky's union with Russia. During periods of relative liberalisation, as under Khrushchev from 1955-1964, the leadership of the Ukrainian section of the Soviet Communist Party pursued policies which allowed more scope for the republic's 'national' characteristics (although manifestations of Ukrainian nationalism, proper, continued to be viewed as a threat to Communist rule and were systematically oppressed). In the years of perestroika under Soviet leader Gorbachev, Ukrainian officials again advanced national goals. On 26 April 1986 the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded; public perception of the authorities' failure to prevent the disaster or adequately deal with its consequences did much to undermine faith in the Soviet government.

Following the attempted coup against Gorbachev, the Ukrainian parliament (the Supreme Rada) declared Ukraine's independence on 24 August 1991. This was confirmed by referendum on 1 December 1991, with 90% approving the decision. Ukraine's formal independence was recognised by the international community on 30 December 1991.

BBC News Country Timeline: Ukraine (

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Ukraine's relations with neighbours


A major breakthrough in Russia-Ukraine relations occurred in May 1997 when Presidents Yeltsin and Kuchma signed an agreement on the Black Sea Fleet, whereby Ukraine undertook to lease the harbour of Sevastopol to Russia until 2017. The presidents also signed a Bilateral Treaty on Friendship and Co-operation, recognising each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity within their existing borders. In February 2003, the two countries agreed on the delimitation of their land border. However, this left the Azov Sea border undelimited and in October 2003 a dispute flared over Ukraine's possession of Tuzla Island in the Kerch Strait, which links the Azov and Black Seas. The two sides signed a framework agreement on the Kerch Strait in December 2003, controlling the entry of naval vessels of other states. This was ratified by the respective parliaments in April 2004, although negotiations on the precise location of the maritime borders continue.

President Putin's backing for President Yushchenko's opponent in the 2004 Presidential election and Yushchenko's pro-EU and NATO policies strained Ukraine's relations with Russia. Since the election of Viktor Yanukovych as President, both Ukraine and Russia have sought to put relations on a new footing and regular meetings between President Yanukovych and President Medvedev have resumed. In April 2010 Ukraine and Russia agreed to extend the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s lease on the port in Sevastopol until 2042.
A priority for successive Ukrainian Governments has been to reach agreement with Russia on the supply of gas. This has become more acute following disputes in late 2005, early 2006, March 2008 and January 2009, which saw supplies to Ukraine and the rest of Europe interrupted.


Poland was the first country to recognise Ukraine's independence and in 1992 Poland and Ukraine signed a Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation, renouncing territorial claims and confirming the inviolability of their frontiers. Poland sees itself as Ukraine's best ambassador to Euro-Atlantic institutions (e.g. Poland lobbied for Ukrainian membership in the Council of Europe), and Ukrainian troops in Iraq served in the Polish-led part of the multinational force.

The role played by then President Kwasniewski in helping to facilitate a resolution to Ukraine's political crisis in 2004 and Polish support for Ukraine's aspiration to join the EU have further strengthened this relationship.
Ukraine and Poland will jointly host the European Football Championships in June and July 2012 with the final being held in Kyiv.

Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova (GUAM)

Ukraine has been a leading member of GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) since 1996 and has played an active part in its development. GUAM states seek to co-operate on economic and democratic development. At a summit meeting in Kyiv in May 2006 GUAM leaders agreed to turn it into a formal regional organisation (Organisation for Democracy and Economic Development) with a Secretariat based in Kyiv. Uzbekistan, which joined the group for a few years, left in 2005.

Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

Ukraine is formally only an associate member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and sees the CIS's future more as a framework for strengthening bilateral economic ties than as a forum for promoting closer political integration. Ukraine has not signed the CIS Charter and does not participate in all aspects of its regional arrangements, such as the Customs Union. Nor is Ukraine a member of the CIS Collective Security Treaty.

Ukraine's relations with the international community


Integration with the EU remains a strategic goal for Ukraine and the reform programme it is pursuing is based around bringing Ukraine closer to the EU. The foundation of the EU-Ukraine relationship is the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), which came into force on 1 March 1998. This provides a framework for political dialogue, trade and investment links and co-operation on a wide range of other issues. The PCA also establishes a forum for regular high-level political and working-level official meetings, including annual summits.

The EU and Ukraine concluded an Action Plan as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy on 21 February 2005. Under the Action Plan Ukraine committed to implement a range of economic and political reforms in return for which the EU offered Ukraine closer relations. In light of progress made (notably the conduct of the March 2006 elections) the EU agreed to begin negotiations on a new enhanced Agreement to replace the PCA. Negotiations on the new Agreement began on 6 February 2007.

The EU-Ukraine Summit in Paris on 9 September 2008 marked a further step forward in relations. Leaders at the Summit recognised Ukraine as a European country with shared history and values, acknowledged Ukraine’s European aspirations, welcomed Ukraine’s European choice and agreed that the New Enhanced Agreement being negotiated to replace the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement would be called an Association Agreement. Leaders also agreed to launch a visa dialogue, developing the conditions for a visa-free regime between the EU and Ukraine as a long-term perspective.

On 12 December 2008, the European Council welcomed proposals for an ‘Eastern Partnership’ aimed at significantly strengthening EU policy with regard to the Eastern partners of the European Neighbourhood Policy in a bilateral and multilateral framework. The ‘Eastern Partnership’ was launched at a summit meeting with the partner countries in Prague on 7 May 2009. The EU and Ukraine also concluded an Association Agenda to replace the 2005 European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan. The Association Agenda is intended to act as a reform tool in much the same way as the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan.

The EU believes that closer economic integration (in the overall context of a political association) can be a key factor in economic growth for Ukraine. The future Association Agreement(AA) includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). This free trade agreement is designed to deepen Ukraine's access to the European market and to encourage further European investment in Ukraine. At the 15th EU-Ukraine Summit in December 2011, both sides announced that technical negotiations of the Association Agreement and DCFTA had been completed. Ukraine’s performance, notably in relation to respect for common values and the rule of law, will be of crucial importance in determining the speed of its political association and economic integration with the EU, including in the context of ratification of the Association Agreement and its subsequent implementation.

Council of Europe

From May to November 2011, Ukraine chaired the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, before passing this responsibility to the UK. Ukraine’s programme for its chairmanship focussed on the following areas: protection of children’s rights; human rights and the rule of law in the context of democracy and stability in Europe; and, strengthening and developing local democracy.


Ukraine acceded to the WTO on 16 May 2008.


Ukraine announced in May 2002 that it was seeking to join NATO. The NATO-Ukraine relationship is based on The Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, signed in Madrid in 1997. This set out principles for developing NATO-Ukraine relations, possible areas for co-operation and consultation, and established mechanisms for managing the relationship, including the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). Ukraine has enhanced its participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP): Ukrainian troops are serving side-by-side with NATO in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and Ukraine has contributed to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, provided logistical support to NATO's contribution in Darfur and completed a deployment with Active Endeavour, NATO's counter-terrorist operation in the Mediterranean. In addition, NATO and Ukraine have established a NATO Information Office in Kyiv, designated Ukraine's Yavoriv manoeuvre range as a PfP training centre (the first such outside NATO territory), established a Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Civil Emergency Planning. In response to Ukraine's wish for a closer relationship, a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan was announced at the Prague Summit in November 2002. In April 2005 NATO launched an Intensified Dialogue on Ukraine's membership aspirations.

On 15 January 2008, President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and Speaker of Parliament Yatsenyuk, co-signed a letter to the NATO Secretary General requesting a Membership Action Plan (MAP) and seeking a 'positive response' to their request at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008. At the Bucharest Summit, NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed Ukraine's aspirations for NATO membership and gave a clear commitment that Ukraine would become a member of the alliance. They also agreed to begin a period of extensive engagement to address the outstanding questions relating to Ukraine’s MAP application.

On 3 December 2008, NATO Foreign Ministers reaffirmed 'all elements of the decisions regarding Ukraine' made in Bucharest and concluded that Ukraine had 'significant work left to do'. Allies decided therefore - without prejudice to further decisions which must be taken about MAP - to offer a package of assistance to help Ukraine in these efforts. A key element of this assistance was the Annual National Programme (ANP), on which Allies assess Ukraine’s progress annually.

A “Declaration to Complement the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine” was signed on 21 August 2009 to follow up on the decisions taken in April and December 2008. It gives the NUC a central role in deepening political dialogue and co-operation, and in underpinning Ukraine’s reform efforts pertaining to its membership aspirations, including through the ANP.

Ukrainian policy shifted following the presidential election of February 2010. President Yanukovych advocates a policy of non-bloc status for Ukraine, while at the same time supporting a strengthened partnership between Ukraine and NATO through the ANP.


Ukraine remains a willing multilateral contributor to peace support operations and is open to providing operational access to NATO countries, as well as the use of its training areas. Ukraine is the only non-NATO member contributing to every one of NATO’s current operations. Ukraine has good capability in Nuclear Biological Chemical defence. Its airlift capability is a potential asset to multinational operations. President Yushchenko announced Ukraine’s inclusion in the UK-France led initiative to support helicopter capability upgrades and pilot training when he visited London in May and October 2008.

During the Iraq conflict in 2003 Ukraine deployed a nuclear, biological and chemical battalion to Kuwait. In August 2003 Ukraine deployed some 1,650 troops to Iraq as a major contribution to post-conflict stabilisation and later increased this to 1,800. The troops handed over to Iraqi battalions and withdrew by the end of December 2005, though Ukraine has continued to support Iraq's post-conflict stabilisation with 50 security sector trainers. In May 2004 Ukraine deployed 370 personnel to support the UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia. Ukraine also participates in operations in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and the Balkans and is now one of the largest European contributors towards peacekeeping operations. In early 2007 the Ukrainian Navy joined NATO's counter-terrorist operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR in the Mediterranean.


The UK's relations with Ukraine

The UK provided £783,000 worth of assistance in 2009-10 through the FCO's Strategic Priorities Fund.

UK development assistance

At the end of March 2008, the Department for International Development (DfID) closed its bilateral programme in Ukraine. This marked the end of 17 years of aid - a period which has seen Ukraine make real progress in areas such as reducing poverty, strengthening democracy, and increasing opportunities for trade. The UK contributes to the EU's Assistance programmes. The EU is the largest donor in Ukraine. Most of the EU’s funding comes from the €11.2 billion European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) which allocates over €124 million annually to Ukraine.


Information about international assistance can be found on the website of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. (

Cultural relations with the UK

The British Council opened in Ukraine in 1992 and operates centres in four cities there: Kyiv, Odessa, Donetsk and L'viv.

Recent visits


Former President Yushchenko paid visits to the UK in May 2008, October 2008 and January 2009. . Foreign Minister Gryshchenko visited the UK in September 2010 and called on the Foreign Secretary.


The (then) Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, visited Ukraine on 27 August 2008. Minister for Europe, David Lidington, visited Ukraine in October 2010. HRH The Duke of York visited Ukraine in June 2006, October 2008 and April 2010. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Gryshchenko last met the Foreign Secretary at the handover of the Chairmanship of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in November 2011 and the Minister for Europe during the Warsaw summit in September 2011.

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Location: Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea. Border countries: Belarus 891 km, Hungary 103 km, Moldova 939 km, Poland 428 km, Romania (south) 169 km, Romania (west) 362 km, Russia 1,576 km, Slovakia 90 km.
Geographic coordinates: 50 00 N, 31 00 E (Kyiv)
Area: total: 603,700 sq km; land: 574,246 sq km; water: 29,454 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 4,558 km
Coastline: 2,782 km
Maritime claims:
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
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Black Sea 0m; highest point: Hora Hoverla 2,061m
Natural resources: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulphur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber, arable land.
Land use: 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: n/a

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The UK was the seventh largest investor in Ukraine in 2010.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Ukraine (

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Recent political developments

Following constitutional changes agreed in December 2004, which entered force on 1 January 2006, Ukraine is a presidential parliamentary republic. The President is Head of State, while the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers are the senior executive body. The parliament (Supreme Rada) nominates the Prime Minister, who in turn nominates the cabinet with parliamentary approval (except for the defence and foreign ministers, whom the president nominates, again with the approval of deputies). The parliament adopts legislation, ratifies international agreements, and approves the budget. Its members are elected to five-year terms. Political groupings in Ukraine include parties across the right-left spectrum.

Following independence and up to 2006, Ukraine's system provided for strong presidential powers. Leonid Kravchuk, former Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, was President from December 1991 until July 1994. Leonid Kuchma was President for two terms from 1994-2004.

In September 2000, Georgiy Gongadze, an internet-based investigative journalist who reported on Ukraine's corrupt oligarchs and their political sponsors, disappeared. His headless body was discovered two months later. Gongadze's disappearance and death blossomed into the deepest political crisis in Ukraine since independence when, in November 2000, the leader of the Socialist Party (Oleksandr Moroz) told the Rada that he had recordings of Kuchma, his chief of staff, the head of state security, and the interior minister suggesting their complicity in the journalist's disappearance. The recordings also contained conversations apparently implicating Kuchma and others in the government in abuse of office, corruption and possible election fraud. The scandal prompted widespread public demonstrations against Kuchma and the Rada's pro-presidential majority collapsed.
Taking advantage of Kuchma's weakness, forces in the Rada opposed to reform, including the Communists and centrist oligarch-led parties, engineered a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Yushchenko in April 2001 and forced him to resign. Kuchma nominated Anatoliy Kinakh in his place. Pro-reform centre-right parities refused to support Kinakh, but thanks to the support of oligarch-led so-called 'centrist' factions, Kuchma was able to put together enough votes to secure Kinakh's confirmation in May 2001.

In March 2002, parliamentary elections brought Ukraine closer to meeting international democratic standards. No one bloc or orientation won a clear majority. But the elections returned a sizeable reformist bloc, namely the 'Our Ukraine' faction, headed by the former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko.

In September 2002, relatively peaceful demonstrations against Kuchma took place in Kyiv and in major Ukrainian cities. The US then announced that the FBI had authenticated a recording of President Kuchma in July 2000 authorising the covert transfer of a Kolchuga military passive detection system to Iraq. (This recording was from the same source as that concerning the murdered journalist, Gongadze.) The transfer was never proven, but in reaction, NATO downgraded a planned NATO-Ukraine summit in November 2002 to a NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) at Foreign Minister level. Even so, the NUC launched a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan, while the EU announced progress on its own initiative for a closer relationship (see NATO and EU above).

In November 2002, President Kuchma dismissed Kinakh and nominated Viktor Yanukovych, Governor of Donetsk oblast (region), as Prime Minister. Following his confirmation by the Rada, a new cabinet was formed.

Orange revolution

Campaigning for the presidential elections started in earnest in August 2004. Reformist former Prime Minister and leader of the 'Our Ukraine' bloc, Victor Yushchenko, and PM Victor Yanukovych were the clear front runners in a field of 26 candidates. After some initial prevarication, Kuchma endorsed the latter's candidacy in July. Although behind in the polls for much of the race, Yanukovych benefited from a high profile as Prime Minister (e.g. he attended the Olympics rather than Kuchma) and, according to the OSCE's reports, from media reporting heavily tilted in his favour. President Putin of Russia also gave Yanukovych his public support, including in Kyiv on the eve of the first round of the elections (31 October) during the anniversary of Ukraine's liberation during WWII. Yushchenko's campaign was affected by sudden severe illness which European scientists have now confirmed as due to the poison dioxin.

The OSCE/ODIHR and Council of Europe observer mission concluded that the first round of the elections did not meet European standards for free and fair democratic elections. Despite these handicaps, and an unexplained delay in the announcement of the results, Yushchenko narrowly beat PM Yanukovych by 39.87% to 39.32%. Socialistleader Moroz, who had come third with 7%, publicly backed Yushchenko for the run-off between the two leading candidates scheduled for 21 November.

Although opinion and exit polls showed Yushchenko with a clear lead (7-15%), the results tallied by the Central Election Commission on 22 November gave Yanukovych a lead of 49.4% to 46.7% over Yushchenko. The OSCE issued a statement the same day saying that the election was not free and fair and the EU's Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels issued a statement condemning the standards of the election and agreed to summon Ukraine's Ambassadors. Large-scale opposition demonstrations began in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine to protest at the result. Despite the widespread condemnation of the elections, on 24 November the Central Election Commission declared Yanukovych the winner. But the next day the Supreme Court banned the official publication of the results while it heard the opposition's complaints.

With tension rising, the EU sent its High Representative Javier Solana to Kyiv. Together with the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania, Solana met all parties in an attempt to broker a solution to the growing crisis. Opposition pressure on the government to overturn the fraudulent election result continued to grow, with large-scale demonstrations (reaching over 500,000 people in Kyiv), a blockade of government offices, and a vote by parliament on 27 November to invalidate the election. Support for Yanukovych fell further when he seemed to imply that he would support secession of some of the eastern regions of Ukraine if he did not become President.
On 1 December a political agreement was reached between Yushchenko, Yanukovych and Kuchma at talks facilitated by HR Solana and the Presidents of Poland and Lithuania. This led to a decision on 3 December by the Supreme Court invalidating the second round of the elections and calling for a re-run on 26 December.

Agreement was reached on 8 December to the re-run of the elections together with a package of constitutional reforms to transfer some of the powers of the President to the Prime Minister and Parliament. Yushchenko won the re-run election by an eight-point margin over Yanukovych. Yushchenko was inaugurated President on 23 January.

Tymoshenko government, Feb-Sept 2005

The Rada appointed a new government on 4 February 2005 following the approval by a substantial majority of Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister. EU integration was the dominant theme of the new government's ambitious programme. The programme also confronted a number of the main domestic challenges in Ukraine, focusing on corruption as the number one problem.

The new authorities maintained the improvements in media freedoms and respect for the constitution. It also took forward the investigation into the murder of Georgiy Gongadze, as well as the cases of other missing journalists.

However, due to public disagreements within the government, Yushchenko decided to sack his entire cabinet on 8 September 2005, including Prime Minister Tymoshenko.

Yekhanurov government, Sept 2005-March 2006

Yushchenko appointed Yuri Yekhanurov as Prime Minister. Yekhanurov was a former economist and long time ally of Yushchenko's, having previously served as Deputy Prime Minister with him. After initially being rejected by the Rada, and following a pact between Yushchenko and his former presidential rival Yanukovych, Yekhanurov was approved in a second vote on 22 September 2005. Yekhanurov set out his priorities as passing WTO legislation, a sound 2006 budget, and drawing a line under the controversial privatisation review. At the EU-Ukraine Summit on 1 December, the EU announced that Ukraine had met the technical criteria to be granted Market Economy Status.

March 2006 parliamentary elections

Parliamentary elections were held on 26 March 2006. The parties which passed the 3% electoral threshold were: Party of Regions (32% - 186 seats), Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko (22% - 129 seats), Bloc Our Ukraine (14% - 81 seats), Socialist Party of Ukraine (6% - 33 seats) and Communist Party of Ukraine (4% - 21 seats). The elections were assessed by the OSCE to have been conducted largely in line with international standards, and were probably the freest and fairest elections ever held in the CIS region. They were held under constitutional changes which have given Ukraine a hybrid parliamentary-presidential system of government.

Yanukovych government, August 2006 - December 2007

A lengthy coalition building process followed the March 2006 elections. Initial attempts by Bloc Our Ukraine, Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko and the Socialists to form an 'Orange' coalition failed and on 3 August an 'anti-crisis' coalition was formed by the Party of Regions, Communists and Socialists, with Viktor Yanukovych as PM. Before nominating Yanukovych as Prime Minister, President Yushchenko secured his agreement to the 'Universal' – a Declaration of National Unity, which laid out the policy framework for the new Government. Its aims included continuing Ukraine's European integration policy with EU membership the future goal, developing a working partnership with NATO with a view to membership and maintaining the Ukrainian language as the sole official language. It was signed by President Yushchenko, Yanukovych, Speaker of the Upper House Oleksandr Moroz, former Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, representative of the party 'Our Ukraine' Roman Bezsmertniy, leader of the Socialist Party, Vasiliy Tsushko, and leader of the Communist Party, Petr Simonenko. Yuliya Tymoshenko refused to sign the document.

The co-habitation between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych proved uneasy. Differing interpretations of the constitution led to disagreements over the respective roles of President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and Parliament on some areas of policy and on appointments and dismissals of Ministers.

2007 parliamentary elections

On 2 April President Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving Parliament and ordering pre-term elections to be held on 27 May. The President's decree was in response to the governing coalition's attempts to form a constitutional majority in Parliament through the incorporation of opposition deputies into the coalition. Both Government and Parliament refused to recognise the President's decree and instead forwarded it to the Constitutional Court to rule on its legality. On 26 April, President Yushchenko issued a further decree superseding his earlier one. The new decree again ordered the dissolution of Parliament but extended the date for fresh elections to 24 June. Parliament again forwarded the decree to the Constitutional Court. The political situation remained deadlocked until 27 May when President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yanukovych and Parliamentary Speaker Moroz agreed a compromise package of measures to end the crisis. This package included provision for pre-term parliamentary elections, which were held on 30 September 2007.

The preliminary conclusions of the International Election Observation Mission stated that 'the 30 September 2007 pre-term parliamentary elections in Ukraine were conducted mostly in line with OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and other international standards for democratic elections, and confirm an open and competitive environment for the conduct of election processes'. Five political parties crossed the 3% threshold required to enter parliament: Party of Regions (34% - 175 seats), Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko (31% - 156 seats), Our Ukraine Peoples Self Defence (14% - 72 seats), Communist Party (5% - 27 seats) and Bloc of Lytvyn (4% - 20 seats).

Tymoshenko government, December 2007 - March 2010

On 23 November 2007, Bloc Yuliya Tymoshenko and Our Ukraine People's Self Defence signed a coalition Agreement. On 18 December 2007, Parliament voted in a new coalition Government, with Tymoshenko as Prime Minister. On 16 September 2008, the Speaker of the Supreme Rada (Parliament) announced that this coalition had formally ceased to exist, following the withdrawal of the Our Ukraine People’s Self Defence bloc. On 8 October 2008, President Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving parliament and calling for pre-term parliamentary elections. On 15 December 2008, President Yushchenko stated that, due to the change in economic circumstances, elections were no longer a priority.

On 12 November 2008, the Speaker, Arseniy Yatseniuk, was dismissed by a vote in Parliament. On 9 December 2008, former speaker and leader of the Bloc of Lytvyn, Volodymyr Lytvyn was elected as his replacement. On 16 December 2008 a coalition agreement between the factions of Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko's bloc, Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence and Bloc of Lytvyn was signed in the Ukrainian parliament.

2010 Presidential Election

The first round of voting in Ukraine's Presidential election took place on 17 January 2010. The candidates obtaining the most votes were: Yanukovych (35%), Tymoshenko (25%), Serhiy Tihipko (13%), Arseniy Yatsenyuk (7%) and Yushchenko (5%). The leading two candidates proceeded to a run off vote on 7 February. Yanukovych won, gaining 49% of the vote to Tymoshenko's 45.5%. The OSCE-led International Election Observation Mission assessed that the election had met most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments. Yanukovych was inaugurated as President of Ukraine on 25 February 2010.

Azarov government, March 2010 – present

On 9 March 2010, parliament adopted an amendment to the law on parliamentary collations making it possible to form a majority on the basis of individual deputies, not factions. A majority coalition was subsequently formed comprising the Party of Regions, Bloc of Lytvyn, Communist Party and a number of individual deputies from other factions. A cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was appointed on 11 March 2010.

In a decision lacking transparency, the Constitutional Court (including many recently appointed judges) on 1 October 2010 returned Ukraine to the 1996 Constitution, which established a strong presidential system. The EU has been calling for reforms of the Ukrainian Constitution in line with recommendations by Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on Constitutional matters, and Ukraine's commitment under the Action Plan and Association Agenda. However, no real progress has been made.

Local elections were held in Ukraine on 31 October 2010. Although the government responded to pressure to amend what was considered to be an imbalanced election law in advance of the local elections, the resulting law was still unsatisfactory. Foreign election observers described the conduct of those elections as less free and fair than the presidential election in February.

During Yanukovych’s Presidency, there have been notable arrests and prosecutions of members of the former government, including against former Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko whose case is on-going and who has been in prison since December 2010 and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was convicted and jailed in October 2011 on charges relating to actions taken while in office. Independent reports, such as those by the Danish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, assessed that Ms Tymoshenko’s trial was subject to numerous and serious violations of fundamental legal principles, in direct contradiction of common European values.

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Ukraine has made good progress in recent years on democratisation and freedom of expression and the media, with three consecutive elections recognised as largely free and fair, and a diverse and lively media environment. Human Rights organisations in Ukraine are becoming increasingly involved in Government work to protect human rights. There are, however, a number of areas where progress has been much less rapid, for example on tackling corruption, strengthening the rule of law, reversing the rise in suspected serious racist and anti-Semitic attacks, preventing people trafficking, improving the way in which detainees are treated by the law enforcement agencies and bringing those responsible for the murder of the journalist Georgiy Gongadze to justice. Amnesty International’s Annual Report 2011 highlights reports of torture and other ill-treatment in prisons and police custody and that human rights defenders were physically attacked and faced harassment from law enforcement officers. The UK is working closely with Ukraine on all of these issues, in particular through the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Council of Europe.

A number of non-governmental organisations and representatives of the media have claimed that media freedoms and freedom of expression in Ukraine may be in the process of being reversed, in part because of interference by the Security Services. In response to these claims, President Yanukovych stated on 20 April that “I will always defend media freedom and do everything possible to ensure transparency of power and the openness of its actions to the press and society”. The EU issued statements on 29 April and 16 September 2010 expressing concern over recent developments and calling on Ukraine to ensure its international commitments on media freedoms are met.

The death penalty in Ukraine was abolished in February 2000, when the Ukrainian parliament removed the death penalty from the criminal code. Ukraine has also ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights in line with her commitments to the Council of Europe.

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Last Updated: December 2011

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