Geographically, most of Ukraine is made up of flat, fertile plains called steppes.
In the west, however, are Carpathian Mountains, which stretch across several other eastern European countries. In the south are Crimean Mountains.
Ukraine can be divided into several vegetation-soil zones. Northern Ukraine is primarily a forest zone, with pine and oak trees predominating. Forest-steppe zone, which is just south of the forest one and is capable of sustaining agriculture, yields to the steppe zone in southern and eastern Ukraine. This zone is the most fertile area and is particularly rich in black earth called chernozem.
The zone of rich black soils is running west-east across south-central Ukraine and its intense cultivation has made Ukraine a major producer of winter wheat and sugar beets.
Rivers play an important role in Ukrainian life. They are vital for shipping, for generating electrical power, and for fishing. Dnepr (Dnipro) is Ukraine’s largest river, and it ranks as the third-largest river in Europe. It flows from Belarus through northern Ukraine and empties southward into Black Sea.
Dnestr (Dnister) is Ukraine’s second-largest river. Located in western Ukraine, it flows into Black Sea on Ukraine’s southern border.
Black Sea is polluted in its deeper depths by sulfur dioxide, which limits the fishing output. Bordering Ukraine and Russia is Azov Sea, a very shallow body of water.
The remoteness of Ukraine from the oceans, continental Eurasia, and mainly flat nature of its territory determine the climate of the country as a temperate-continental, gradually changing from west to east.
Only a narrow coastal strip of the Southern coast of Crimea is characterized by sub-tropical (Mediterranean) climate.
Most of precipitation fall in the Ukrainian Carpathians (up to 1600 mm per year) and in the Crimea (800-1150 mm). In the rest regions it ranges from 700-750 mm (north-west) to 300-350 mm (in the south-east).