Ukraine Legal Profile

Proelium Law LLP

Ukraine Legal System Overview

Ukraine is a unitary semi-presidential republic, divided into a number of provinces, called oblasti, as well as two cities, Kyiv and Sevastopol.[1] 

The President of Ukraine is the head of state and is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. The President acts as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, oversees executive ministries, and has the power to initiate and to veto legislation. The President also chairs the National Security and Defence Council and determines its composition. The current President of Ukraine is Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected in 2019.[2] The status and powers of the President, as well as the election procedure for the position are stipulated by the Constitution of Ukraine.[3] The President of Ukraine cannot delegate his powers to other persons or bodies,[4] and the title of the President of Ukraine is protected by law and reserved forever.

The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President with the consent of the legislature. The President, with the consent of the Prime Minister, also appoints the members of the cabinet, which coordinates the day-to-day administration of the government and may introduce legislation to the Verkhovna Rada. The President has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The current Prime Minister is Denys Shmyhal, who was appointed in 2020.[5]

The right of legislative initiative is vested in the President, MPs, and the Cabinet of Ministers.[6] The Cabinet of Ministers is comprised of the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the First Vice-Prime Minister, Vice-Prime Ministers and other Ministers,[7] and is the highest body in the system of executive authorities.[8]

The Constitution of Ukraine stipulates that its principles are to have supremacy and its norms are to have direct effect within the country.[9] The Constitution provides that the State power in Ukraine shall be divided into legislative, executive, and judicial power, and that each separate power shall exercise their powers within the limits established by the Constitution and in accordance with the law of Ukraine.[10]

The highest legislative organ of the Ukrainian government is the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council of Ukraine). The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine comprises 450 Members of Parliament elected for a five-year term. The Constitution provides that the Members are to be elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot.[11] The meetings of the Verkhovna Rada are open to the public unless a decision of the majority provides otherwise.[12]

The Verkhovna Rada has a number of roles, including: introducing amendments to the constitution; approving the State Budget of Ukraine; adopting legislation; declaring principles of domestic and foreign policy; approving programmes of economic, scientific and technical, social, national and cultural development; declaring war upon the submission of the President as well as concluding peace; removing the President from office; appointing the Prime Minister, Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and other members of the Cabinet of Ministers; confirming the general structure and numerical strength of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Security Service and other military formations; granting consent to the binding character of international treaties; and exercising parliamentary control.[13]

Justice in Ukraine is administered exclusively by the courts.[14] The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial system, and administrative courts operate in order to protect the rights, freedoms and interests of a person in the field of public relations. Constitutional matters are determined by the Constitutional Court.[15]

The Constitution provides for the protection of fundamental human rights and the inviolability of human life, health, honour and dignity.[16] It states that “human rights and freedoms and guarantees… shall determine the essence and course of activities of the State,” and that the “State shall be answerable to the individual for its activities,” with the affirmation of human rights and freedoms being the State’s main duty.[17] Ukrainian citizens are also guaranteed the right to legal aid,[18] and the right to compensation at the expense of the State for damages caused by unlawful decisions or inactivity.[19] The Constitution also prohibits the use of censorship in an effort to protect political, economic, and ideological diversity.[20]

The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as the protection of information is considered the most important function of the State and citizens of Ukraine.[21] The aims of foreign political activity are directed at ensuring its national interests and security by maintaining peaceful and mutually beneficial co-operation with members of the international community.[22]

The Constitution specifically provides that everyone has the right to own, use, or dispose of their property and intellectual creations,[23] that everyone shall have the right to entrepreneurial activity that is not prohibited by the law, and that it is the duty of the State to protect market competition and the rights of consumers.[24]  

The Constitution provides that under the conditions of martial law or a state of emergency, specific restrictions on rights and freedoms may be established.[25] Citizens of Ukraine are also expected perform military service in accordance with the law.[26]

That said, despite these apparent constitutional guarantees, democracy and prosperity has remained elusive in the country, “as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, [privatisation], and civil liberties.”[27] Indeed, Ukraine’s media is still dominated by oligarch-owned news outlets, which tend to be politically motivated.[28] Furthermore, government corruption remains a real challenge for Ukraine, and at least 11 officials have either resigned or have been fired as Kyiv tries to tackle this issue.[29] In fact, this has been deemed such an issue that it has led to some US politicians to call for aid to Ukraine to be restricted,[30] for fears that money may end up in the wrong hands. However, it is hoped that Zelensky’s bid to secure the West’s support will drive more reform.[31] Indeed, according to Freedom House, Ukraine still cannot be described as a stable democracy,[32] but it states that the country is making active moves forward in its democratic development,[33] such as the hastily introduced law countering oligarchs,[34] as well as the adoption of laws and strategies respecting civil society, ethnic minorities, and human rights.[35]


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[1] ibid.



[4] ibid.


[6] Article 93 Constitution of Ukraine see

[7] ibid art 114.

[8] ibid art 113.

[9] ibid art 8.

[10] ibid art 6.

[11] ibid art 76.

[12] ibid art 84.

[13] ibid art 85.

[14] ibid art 124.

[15] ibid art 125.

[16] ibid art 3.

[17] ibid.

[18] ibid art 59.

[19] ibid art 56.

[20] ibid art 15.

[21] ibid art 17.

[22] ibid art 18.

[23] ibid art 41.

[24] ibid art 42.

[25] ibid art 64.

[26] ibid art 65.


[28] ibid.


[30] ibid.

[31] ibid.


[33] ibid.

[34] ibid.

[35] ibid.

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