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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gestures while inspecting the troops as he visits Adazi Military Base in Kadaga, Latvia, on July 10, 2018.Roman Koksarov/The Associated Press

The Canadian commander of a NATO battlegroup in Latvia says his troops are at a state of “high readiness,” as tensions between the military alliance and Russia continue to escalate.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Lt.-Col. Dan Richel says his 1,000-strong unit, which includes about 350 Canadian soldiers, is trained and equipped to help defend Latvian territory in the event of an attack.

The Canadian-led battlegroup is one of four such units that were first deployed across the Baltics and Poland five years ago in response to NATO concerns about Russian aggression in eastern Europe.

The Russian government has demanded the alliance withdraw all its forces from the region, including the battlegroup in Latvia, after mobilizing about 100,000 troops on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Canada, the U.S. and other NATO members have rejected the demand, leading to growing concerns about armed conflict between the two sides.

Richel says morale is high as the battlegroup continues training and getting ready for a possible Russian attack, as it has been doing since 2017.

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