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In first since Ukraine invasion, Pentagon chief speaks with Russian counterpart

By Idrees Ali
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin responds to questions before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2022. Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Pool via REUTERS

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine when he spoke by telephone to his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

Austin has tried multiple times to try and talk with Shoigu since the invasion started nearly three months ago, but officials said Moscow had appeared uninterested.

Austin stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the call, which was requested by Austin, lasted about an hour but did not solve any specific issues or lead to direct changes in what the Russians are doing in Ukraine.

The official described the tone of the call as "professional."

Russia's TASS news agency quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying that the call happened "at the initiative of the American side".

"Topical issues of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine," TASS said, quoting the ministry.

The United States and Russia have established a hotline since the invasion - which Moscow calls a "special military operation" - to prevent miscalculation and any widening of the conflict.

The "deconfliction" hotline is an open phone line based at the European Command's headquarters and falls under Air Force General Tod Wolters, who leads all U.S. forces in Europe.

Since the war started, the United States has sent around $3.8 billion in weapons and earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives approved more than $40 billion more aid for Ukraine. The Senate has yet to approve the aid.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions from their homes and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in eastern Ukraine, including the Donbas region.

Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armored column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas, video from Ukraine's military showed on Friday.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali, Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool)

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Dive Deeper:
Ukraine war: Pentagon chief speaks with Russian counterpart
US says Lloyd Austin urged ‘immediate ceasefire’ in first talks with Russia’s defence minister since Ukraine war began.
US, Russian defense chiefs speak for 1st time since invasion
After rebuffing U.S. requests for months, Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu spoke with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on…
US defence chief urges Ukraine ceasefire in call with Russian counterpart – as it happened
Lloyd Austin urges immediate ceasefire and emphasises ‘the importance of maintaining lines of communication’ – follow the latest news
Ukraine to begin first war crimes trial since Russian invasion began
More than 10,000 war crimes have been registered in Ukraine since the start of the war
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Russia-Ukraine war: What happened today (May 13)
A roundup of key developments and the latest in-depth coverage of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian forces thwart Russians at river
Ukraine has destroyed Russian armoured vehicles crossing a river in Donbas and driven forces from Kharkiv as it braces for…
Get all your news in one place