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Ten things you should know about Ukraine


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    The world spotlight has turned to Ukraine since Russia invaded the sovereign country a week ago. 

    As the war intensifies, here are 10 things to know about Ukraine:

    Ukraine is slightly smaller than Texas 

    Ukraine is slightly smaller than Texas, coming in at 233,031 square miles while Texas sits at 268,597 square miles.

    When the borders for the post-Soviet Union countries were drawn in 1991, Ukraine became the second largest country in Europe.

    It is twice the size of Italy and 2 1/2 times the size of the United Kingdom. In the world, Ukraine ranks 46th in size. 

    Although the second largest country in Europe, it falls way behind Russia, which is the largest European country with 6.6 million square miles of land. 

    Ukraine’s population is about the same as Argentina

    The second-largest country in Europe holds around 44 million people, comparable to countries such as Argentina, which has a population of 45 million.

    Ukraine’s population has been declining for years due to emigration, high death rates and lower birth rates. 

    The population is composed of 77.8 percent native Ukrainians, with Russians coming in second at 17 percent. 

    Agriculture is a large portion of Ukraine’s economy

    Agriculture makes up a sizable portion of Ukraine’s economy, as the country is known as the “breadbasket of Europe.”

    In 2020, Ukraine exported more than $6 billion worth of agricultural products to the European Union. 

    Ukraine was one of China’s top corn suppliers in 2021, giving the country 8.2 million tons of corn, The Wall Street Journal reported

    In 2019, the Observatory of Economic Complexity found the country’s main imports were fuels and oils. 

    In 2021, Ukraine’s gross domestic product hit $195 billion, the highest dollar amount since its independence.

    Ukraine lives under a mixed economic system with an emerging free market economy, according to the International Trade Administration. 

    Ukraine has 200,000 active military personnel

    Ukraine has 200,000 active military personnel and 900,000 in the reserves. 

    The country spent just $4.7 billion on defense in 2021, CNN reported. The country only possesses 3,309 armored vehicles, 132 aircrafts and 55 helicopters.

    The military is significantly smaller than Russia’s, a country that spent $62 billion on its military in 2020.

    Ukraine has declared martial law since the Russian invasion, forcing all men ages 16 through 60 to stay in the country. 

    Ukraine has no nuclear weapons

    Ukraine does not have any nuclear weapons after the country gave them up following their independence. 

    When Ukraine gained independence, it had one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world. 

    However, the country agreed in a treaty with the U.S. and Russia to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security assurances that it would not get attacked. 

    The country still four nuclear power plants and 15 reactors. The fleet supplies around half the country’s power. 

    A 1,400-mile border connects Russia and Ukraine

    Russia and Ukraine share a border of around 1,400 miles, with about 1,200 miles by land and the rest by sea. 

    Leading up to the invasion, Russia positioned thousands of troops along the border, which sits on the east of Ukraine. 

    Ukraine borders six other countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and Belarus. 

    While most of the surrounding countries are taking Ukrainian refugees during the war, Belarus has assisted Russia and allowed Russian troops to enter Belarus to then attack Ukraine. 

    Ukraine has been independent for more than 30 years

    Ukraine has been an independent country for more than 30 years after the Soviet Union collapsed. 

    The country officially declared independence on Aug. 24, 1991, after it had been part of the Soviet Union for decades. 

    Before independence, Ukraine was called the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and was under the control of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991. 

    It has also been under the control of the Russian tsar, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary. 

    Volodymyr Zelensky has been Ukraine’s president since 2019

    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was elected in 2019 with 73 percent of the vote. 

    Zelensky, age 44, earned a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University in 2000. After his graduating, he became an entertainer and comedian. 

    Zelensky won the country’s version of “Dancing with the Stars” in 2006 and has acted in multiple TV shows. 

    His native language is Russian but he also speaks Ukrainian and English.

    A majority of Ukrainians are Christians

    A majority of Ukrainians are Christians, with the people overwhelmingly Orthodox. 

    Catholicism is the second most popular religion in the country. Protestantism, Judaism and Islam each compose a tiny portion of the religious makeup in Ukraine. 

    A Pew Research Center study in 2015 found Ukraine had the third largest Orthodox population in the world. 

    Kyiv is the capital city of Ukraine

    Ukrainians have been fighting hard to defend their capital city of Kyiv from the Russians. It has a population of almost three million people. 

    Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine at 1.4 million people. Zelensky has called for a war crimes investigation into Russia for attacks on civilians in the city. 

    The city of Kherson, with around 280,000 citizens, was the first city Russia was able to capture in Ukraine on Wednesday. 

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