Many of these nations have since joined NATO and the European Union. This is a thorny issue when it comes to relations between the West and Russia. Mistrust and misunderstanding have deep roots here and memories are long. Russia has long seen the border nations of Eastern Europe as their rightful sphere of influence as well as a buffer zone from invasion.
Moreover, this is ‘Slavic’ Europe, where language, culture and religion take a distinct turn toward Russia. The further east you go, the more you’ll notice it. For instance, western Slovakia uses the Latin alphabet. In the eastern half of the country, however, the Cyrillic alphabet is more prevalent and Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion.
Cross from Slovakia into Ukraine and Western Europe seems far away. By the time you reach far eastern Ukraine, the population is more Russian than Ukrainian and identifies more with Moscow than Kiev.