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NB This was written before 24 February 2022 and will be updated when the situation becomes clear.

As Europe's second largest country Ukraine is a land of wide, fertile agricultural plains, with large pockets of heavy industry in the east, whilst the west of the country has close ties with its European neighbours, particularly Poland, and Ukrainian nationalist sentiment is strongest there.

Ukraine gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and is now seeking closer integration with Western Europe - a process watched with unease by Russia.

The Ukrainian economy's dependence on steel exports made it particularly vulnerable to the effects of the global financial crisis of 2008, and in October of that year the country was offered a $16.5bn (£10.4bn) loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ukraine has made its aspiration towards EU membership clear, and although there is no set date the process has started. The optimism that followed the Orange Revolution has faded for many Ukrainians. Economic growth has slowed and prices have risen - a process accelerated by the global economic downturn.

One of the President's key pledges is to fight corruption. In a country where business and politics remain closely entwined this has turned out to be tricky, if not impossible.

We started working in Ukraine in 2008 and have partners in the capital Kiev, Borodyanka and Korosten who help to co-ordinate the project work and visits that various of our branches fund.

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