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Canadian troops take part in Latvia invasion drill as Russia tensions flare

Canadian soldiers arrive at the Riga International Airport, in Riga, Latvia 10 June 2017. Canadian troops are taking part in wargames in Latvia intent on preparing for an invasion of the country.
Canadian soldiers arrive at the Riga International Airport, in Riga, Latvia 10 June 2017. Canadian troops are taking part in wargames in Latvia intent on preparing for an invasion of the country. EPA/Valda Kalnina

Canadian soldiers and their NATO allies in Latvia will help to defend against a simulated invasion of the eastern European nation starting Saturday, even as real tensions flare anew between Moscow and the West.

READ MORE: Here’s how the Canadian military is battling fake news in Latvia

Billed as Latvia’s largest wargame since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the exercise attempts to mimic an attack by a country like Russia and test how Latvian and NATO forces respond.

The scenario includes Latvian authorities dealing with enemy cyberattacks and efforts to stir up the local population with misinformation before an all-out assault, which is where the Canadians and their allies come in.

WATCH: PM Trudeau visits Canadian troops in Latvia

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Canada has 450 soldiers leading a multinational NATO battle group in Latvia, one of four such forces deployed to Eastern Europe in recent years following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support separatist rebels in Ukraine.

READ MORE: As Trump and Putin prepare to meet, Trudeau set to visit troops deterring Russia in Latvia

While the tactics employed by the invading country reflect what many believe would happen during a Russian invasion, Latvian, Canadian and NATO officials have been careful not to identify Russia as the fictional enemy.

The exercise nonetheless coincides with a new round of verbal sparring between Vladimir Putin and NATO.