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In the 2000s, the government began leaning towards NATO, and a deeper cooperation with the alliance was set by the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan signed in 2002.It was later agreed that the question of joining NATO should be answered by a national referendum at some point in the future.Before its independence, Ukraine was typically referred to in English as "The Ukraine", but sources since then have moved to drop "the" from the name of Ukraine in all uses.Nonetheless it formed a limited military partnership with the Russian Federation and other CIS countries and a partnership with NATO in 1994.Ukraine is a unitary republic under a semi-presidential system with separate powers: legislative, executive and judicial branches. Taking into account reserves and paramilitary personnel, 77.8 percent of whom are Ukrainians "by ethnicity", followed by a sizeable minority of Russians (17.3 percent) as well as Georgians, Romanians/Moldovans, Belarusians, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians and Hungarians.Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic.The third period of independence began in 1991, when Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union in the aftermath of its dissolution at the end of the Cold War.Ukraine has maintained its independence as a sovereign state ever since.

Following its fragmentation in the 13th century, the territory was contested, ruled and divided by a variety of powers, including Lithuania, Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.

By 4,500 BC, the Neolithic Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture flourished in a wide area that included parts of modern Ukraine including Trypillia and the entire Dnieper-Dniester region.

During the Iron Age, the land was inhabited by Cimmerians, Scythians, and Sarmatians.

The Goths stayed in the area but came under the sway of the Huns from the 370s AD.

In the 7th century AD, the territory of eastern Ukraine was the centre of Old Great Bulgaria.

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