Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, on Friday for the first time since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
According to a Pentagon reading, during the conversation with Shoigu, Austin “called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication.”
The call is the first time the two officials have spoken since February 18, before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
A reading from the Russian Defense Ministry said the call was made by the United States, and the two leaders discussed “current international security issues, including the situation in Ukraine.”
A senior US defense official said the call lasted about an hour and confirmed Austin requested the call. Since mid-February, the Pentagon has continually solicited calls with its Russian counterparts, but the Russians had previously shown no interest. It is now unclear why Shoigu accepted Friday’s call.
The manager called the tone of the call “professional” and said that while it’s important to have the call and keep lines of communication open, the call itself didn’t resolve any issues. specific problem nor changed Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.
The call came as the Pentagon estimated that the Russians were two weeks behind their own schedule on where they expected to be positioned in southern and eastern Ukraine at the actual hour.
Over the past two weeks, the Pentagon has called Russian advances steady and gradual, but still uneven, and the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, told the Senate this week that the situation had become a “bit of a dead end.”
“I think I would say the Russians don’t win and the Ukrainians don’t win,” Berrier said.
The call between Austin and Shoigu also came just before Ukraine was set to receive a huge injection of cash from the United States. The Senate is expected to disburse $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine next week.
At the same time, Russia’s stated aim in the war against Ukraine to stop the expansion of the NATO alliance is now being upset by Sweden and Finland, both of which seek to join the Western Defense Alliance.
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