Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has his first direct call with Russia’s defense minister in months

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart on Friday morning, his first phone call with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since May and the second since the Russian invasion of neighboring Ukraine in late February.

Pentagon officials said in a terse reading of the conversation that Mr. Austin, who initiated the call, stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication between Washington and Moscow amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. The United States has strongly supported Kyiv with weapons and aid as Russia struggles to keep its faltering invasion on track.

“We pride ourselves on keeping lines of communication open. The dialogue is good here,” Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters at the Pentagon.

She declined to provide specific details about the phone call, but said Mr Austin wanted to stress how important it was for the two sides to keep talking.

“He spoke a lot about the war and the commitment of the United States to continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs,” Ms. Singh said.

The Russian Defense Ministry also released a statement about the phone call, saying the two men discussed “current international security issues, including the situation in Ukraine.”

Secretary Austin also spoke on Friday with Oleksii Reznikov, Ukrainian Defense Minister. Unlike the Russian military leader, Mr. Austin and Mr. Reznikov speak regularly on a range of issues.

“One of them is to assess what the Ukrainians need on the battlefield,” Ms Singh said.

Austin also noted the continued support of the international community in building Ukraine’s future strength and safeguarding Kyiv’s ability to defend itself in the future, Pentagon officials said.

“Both leaders are committed to staying in close contact,” a defense ministry spokesman said.

The calls came as Ukrainian forces reported further progress in the east and south of the country against positions held by Russian and Ukrainian separatist forces.

The Associated Press reported that Ukrainian forces shelled Russian positions in the southern Kherson region, targeting resupply routes across a major river while closing in on a full assault on one of the first captured urban areas. by Russia in the weeks following the February 24 invasion. .

Russian-installed officials reportedly tried desperately to turn the city of Kherson, a prime target for both sides due to its key industries and major river and sea port, into a fortress while attempting to evacuate dozens of thousands of inhabitants, reported the press service. , including the deployment of some 2,000 recent recruits to the region.


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