Sevastopol is one of two cities with special status in Ukraine, located on the Black Sea coast of the Crimean peninsula. It has a population of 342,451 (2001). Sevastopol is the second largest port in Ukraine, after the Port of Odessa. The unique geographic location and navigation conditions of the city's harbours make Sevastopol a strategically important naval point. It is also a popular seaside resort and tourist destination, mainly for visitors from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. The city, formerly the home of the Russian then Soviet Black Sea Fleet, is now home to a Ukrainian naval base and a Russian naval base in facilities leased by the Russian Navy.
The trade and shipbuilding importance of Sevastopol's port has been growing since the fall of the Soviet Union, despite the difficulties that arise from the joint military control over its harbours and piers. Sevastopol is also an important centre of marine biology research. In particular, studying and training of dolphins has been conducted in the city since the end of World War II. It was first conducted as a secret naval programme to use the animals for special undersea operations. Sevastopol enjoys one of the warmest climates in Ukraine, with mild winters and moderate warm summers.