The tiny Baltic State of Latvia fears that after Crimea, they may be next to receive Russian 'protection'/
Set amid the vast birch woods that stretch towards the Russian border, the Latvian city of Daugavpils is not so much in the Kremlin's backyard as right on its doorstep. Yet should Vladimir Putin ever drop in for a vodka at the Artillery Cellar Club, the reception may prove as icy as the nearby River Daugava in Spring.
"This is the only bar in town where the Russian language is banned," smiles owner Andrejs Faibusevics, 47, who runs the snug live music venue with his wife Inara. "People can ask for a drink in Latvian or English or anything else, but not Russian. Our aim is to prove that Russian is no more needed here as a language than it is in Britain."
Unlike in Britain, however, this means turning down more than just the odd passing oligarch from Moscow. Daugavpils, along with a few other Baltic settlements near the Russian border, is one of the only cities in the European Union with a Russian-speaking majority.
The Russians, who make up nearly a third of the total population in Latvia, migrated here mainly during Soviet rule, when they dominated the country's elite. But ever since communism's collapse, the boot has been firmly on the other foot. Latvian, not Russian, is the official language, and the country is now one of Nato's newest – and keenest – members, along with fellow Baltic states Lithuania and Estonia.
But even being in the most powerful club of nations in the modern world cannot shake the sense that Mr Putin still wants a foothold here. In the wake of the crisis in Ukraine, where he has given armed backing to a Russian breakaway state in Crimea, many fear he may now stir separatist sentiment here in eastern Latvia, which too once belonged to Russia itself.
Last weekend, as pro-Russian forces were surrounding Crimea, Moscow's ambassador to the Latvian caused further unease by saying that the Kremlin was planning to offer passports and pensions to ethnic Russians in Latvia to "save them from poverty".
Indeed, such are the jitters in the three Baltic republics that last weekend, President Barack Obama sent six US fighter jets to join Nato patrols over the Baltics as a sign of reassurance. Today will also see a further flashpoint when ageing Latvian legionnaires, who helped the Nazis against the Soviets during WWII, stage an annual march in the capital, Riga.
For many ethnic Latvians, the march is a reminder of how the Baltics found themselves caught between two totalitarian systems during the Second World War, and were forced to befriend their enemies' enemies. For ethnic Russians, though, it is a celebration of the Fascism that millions of Russians died to defeat – a sign of how they are now strangers in their adopted homeland, and unwelcome ones at that.
Certainly, in Daugavpils, where most newspapers sold are in Russian, it is not hard to find people who would prefer to be back in Moscow's orbit.
"There are no decent jobs here in Daugavpils," said Yvgeny Andreyev, 34, a local father of three. "Whatever we were promised by the EU, we have not got yet. I have a lot of relatives in Russia, and while life isn't perfect, it isn't bad. It would be good for this part of Latvia to be part of Russia again."
For Mr Andreyev, whose job as a gravedigger barely pays the rent for his flat, it is not hard to see why such a long-buried arrangement might seem attractive. Since independence in 1991, the country's Latvian-speaking majority have made strong efforts to reassert Latvian as the national tongue, and at the town hall in Daugavpils, no official paperwork is issued in Cyrillic.
Yet like many of the city's Russians, Mr Andreyev speaks only "tourist" Latvian, and feel the government is being discriminatory by insisting that they should learn it. A bid to make Russian a second official language, sponsored by Latvia's pro-Russian parties, was overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in 2012.
"I can only say 'hello, thank-you, please and bread in Latvian'," added Marina Petrovska, 80, a local pensioner, as she sat in a park overlooking a frozen municipal pond. "We used to be the occupiers here, now we are the occupied."
However, for Latvians like Mr Faibusevics, the fact that so many of his fellow townsfolk still cannot speak their country's national language has a more sinister explanation than mere laziness. Thanks to the proliferation of what he describes as Russian "propaganda" channels on television, which broadcast a Kremlin-eye view of the world across the border, many Russians feel they can get by in Russian only.
"The propaganda is brainwashing people into a frame of mind where they may live in Latvia but they think as Russians," he said. "They will know that Putin is president of Russia, but not who the president of Latvia is."
Such comments show how the Baltic states, which number only eight million people between them, still feel intimidated by their mighty neighbour to the East, and anxious that Europe might forget them. In 1989, a year defined by the fall of the Berlin Wall, a less-remembered image is how 1.5 million people across the Baltics formed a 400-mile human chain in a symbolic bid to stop the Kremlin crushing their bid for independence.
A quarter of a century on, European Union membership has brought prosperity to the Baltics, to the point where they may one day be on a par with the Scandinavian nations further west. As such, even among the Russians, only a minority want to fall back under Mr Putin's autocratic rule.
That, though, does not stop Moscow agitating through a variety of Kremlin-sponsored radical organisations. In 2007, after riots sparked by plans to remove a Russian statue from a city centre location, Estonia suffered a massive cyberattack on its government websites, widely believed to have been organised by Kremlin-sponsored activists.
And in the wake of Crimea's breakaway, an online petition is doing the rounds in Latvia urging a referendum on reunion with Russia. Moscow, it claims, will offer much better living standards than the EU – especially for ethnic Russians, many of whom still inhabit the slab-like "dormitory" suburbs that they first moved into during "Russification" in the 1960s. The fear is that Mr Putin, a lover of brinkmanship, could – in extremis – choose to test Nato's mettle by engineering anti-government protests that then allowed Moscow to send in troops to "protect" Russian citizens.
"Ukraine shows how Russia wants to show its imperial power openly, and I would not be surprised if they tried to do the same thing here in Latvia," said Jamis Dombrava, an MP with the pro-Latvian Father and Freedom Party.
True, most Latvians and Russians alike stress that today the two communities are much more integrated than they were in Soviet times. Back then, says Mr Faibusevics, anybody who spoke Latvian on the streets of Daugavpils risked being attacked, whereas today, the worst he has suffered for his bar's pro-Latvian policy is a few disappointed punters.
Other customers, he says, including an ultranationalist Russian, have happily adapted to the policy – partly because he does not wish to miss the club's heavy metal nights. "It was a shock to them at first but they now realise they can speak Latvian if they want to," Mr Faibusevics said.
All the same, he says, if Mr Putin is to be deterred from stirring trouble in the Baltics, it will take more than the odd club owner to take a firm stance. The West, he argues, is currently far too timid on the question of sanctions against Mr Putin's regime because of fears about upsetting trade relations.
"As long as your Mr Cameron and Germany's Mrs Merkel continue to sleep with big business, it is completely possible that trouble will come to Latvia too. Putin's regime uses Stalin's methods, but it also like the comforts of the West, and that is where you can act."
Additional reporting by Rayyan Parry-Sabet in Daugavpils