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Ukraine conflict: Russia puts nuclear forces on alert, Germany agrees to supply arms to Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin said he ordered Russia's nuclear forces to be placed on a “special mode of combat duty” on 27 February because of western sanction and “aggressive statements”.

“Western countries aren't only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

It is not clear what the order will mean for Russia's nuclear stockpile or command-and-control procedures. A senior US Department of Defense (DoD) told reporters that the Pentagon is in the early phases of reviewing and analysing Putin's directive. This official declined to discuss if the United States had made changes to its nuclear posture but said the Pentagon is “confident in our ability to defend ourselves and our allies and our partners, and that includes in the strategic deterrent realm”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also weighed in on the deteriorating situation during a 27 February CNN interview. “Putin just added to the very aggressive rhetoric we have seen from Russia for many months, and especially over the last couple weeks, where they are not only threatening Ukraine, but also threatening NATO ally countries and demanding we should remove all of our forces from the eastern part of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

Putin's nuclear order comes as several nations rushed to provide Ukraine with additional military weapons. Germany, in a historic reversal of its policy not to export weapons to crisis areas, is sending arms to Kiev, in addition to raising defence spending over 2% of GDP.

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