A series of tragic events have kept Ukraine in the news over the past year. It thus seems appropriate to balance this image with a look at the natural features of that country, the largest that lies totally within Europe.
The great majority of Ukraine is covered by fertile plains, steppes and low plateaus. Exceptions include the Carpathian Mountains, that cut across the southwestern corner of the country, and a swath of low, wooded hills along its northern border, extending southward from Belarus. The Dneiper River, the fourth longest in Europe, rises in western Russia and flows southward through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea; half of its length (about 670 miles) snakes through the center of Ukraine, passing through Kiev and several large reservoirs as it bisects the country. Other Ukrainian rivers also flow north to south, entering the Black Sea. As we know, the Crimean Peninsula was annexed by Russia earlier this year.
The rich soil of the Ukrainian plains yields one of the largest wheat crops on our planet, the Carpathian Mountains are home to brown bears, wolves and lynx and the varied geologic strata of Ukraine harbor a wealth of minerals, including large deposits of sulfur, manganese and iron ore. Of the many National Parks and nature preserves that lace the country, four are UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. Clearly, Ukraine is more than a theater for political and military conflict.