Ukraine since independence in three key charts

phil black ukraine front lines_00005308
phil black ukraine front lines_00005308

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(CNN)
Twenty-five years ago this month, the Soviet Union was falling apart. A short-lived coup against the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, had failed, but some of the republics that made up the continent-spanning nation had declared independence.

On August 24, 1991, Ukraine followed suit, launching itself on a rocky journey.

Territory lost

    For years, the country swung between leaders who favored Moscow and those who looked towards the West, twice ousting pro-Russian leaders with mass demonstrations.
    Then, in 2014, Russia annexed Crimea, and pro-Russian troops seized of a big chunk of south-eastern Ukraine.

    The economy

    Ukraine's economic health took a big hit when the Soviet Union collapsed, bottoming out in the late 1990s. Over the next decade it clawed its way back, before being whacked by the global financial crisis; it took another blow when war broke out on the border with Russia.

    Life expectancy

    Ukraine is showing steady improvement in one area: life expectancy.
    It dropped sharply in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in 1989, but has mostly been rising since 1995.
    Even here, though, the war in the east is taking a toll: after nearly a decade of improving figures, there was no increase from 2013 to 2014 -- the year the war began.

    What now for Ukraine?

    Ukrainian soldier Andrew Slusharenko
    Andrey Slusharenko, 32, of Kiev, is one of the Ukrainian troops are fighting to regain control of their territory. He thinks Ukraine achieved its independence too easily, but that more than two years of war have driven home a difficult lesson.
    "We weren't an independent country before. We had a pro-Russian government, a pro-Russian president," he said.
    "What independence meant, we understand now ... I think we wasted a lot of time these 25 years."