For the first time since the Ukrainian invasion, a Pentagon chief speaks with his Russian counterpart

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin responds to questions before the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington, US, May 3, 2022. Amanda Andrade Rhodes/Paul via Reuters

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine when he spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, on Friday for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

Austin has tried several times to try to talk to Shoigu since the invasion began nearly three months ago, but officials said Moscow seemed uninterested.

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

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A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the call, requested by Austin, lasted about an hour but did not resolve 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.”

And the Russian Tass news agency quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying that the call came “on the initiative of the American side.”

“Recent issues related to international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine,” TASS said, citing the ministry.

The United States and Russia have set up a hotline since the invasion – which Moscow calls a “special military operation” – to prevent miscalculation and any expansion of the conflict.

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The De-Conflict Hotline is an open telephone line based at European Command Headquarters and subject to Air Force Commander General Todd Walters, who commands all US forces in Europe.

Since the war began, the United States has sent about $3.8 billion in arms, and earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives approved more than $40 billion in aid to 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 outside a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in eastern Ukraine, including the Donbass region.

Video footage from the Ukrainian military on Friday showed that Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armored column while trying to cross a river in Donbass. Read more

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(Additional reporting by Idris Ali) and Chris Gallagher Additional reporting; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Angus McSwan and Grant McCall

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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