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Ukraine, a country of some 45 million people, is wedged between Central Europe and Russia. Once a part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine became an independent republic in 1990. The Crimean Peninsula, which juts into the Black Sea in the far eastern end of the country, is an autonomous republic—largely populated by ethnic Russians who speak Russian rather than Ukrainian—but still part
of Ukraine. Three ports in the Crimea, Odessa, Sevastopol, and Yalta, are popular cruise destinations and are included on many Black Sea cruise itineraries.