Biden Defense secretary holds call with Russian counterpart
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart on Friday, the first time the pair are known to have spoken in more than five months.
Austin “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication” in the call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, according to a readout from the Pentagon.
The two last spoke on May 13, when Austin urged for a cease-fire in the war in Ukraine. Friday’s call is only the second time the pair have spoken since the war began in February.
Austin also spoke with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Friday, emphasizing the United States’ continued commitment to support Kyiv, the Pentagon said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has continued to escalate the war in recent weeks, following several embarrassing losses. Russian forces were forced to pull out of Kharkiv last month, after Ukraine launched a successful counteroffensive.
Putin responded with a partial military call-up and the formal annexation of four regions in southern and eastern Ukraine. However, just one day after he laid claim to the territories, Ukrainian forces retook the city of Lyman in the annexed region of Donetsk.
Ukraine now appears poised to begin a counteroffensive in the city of Kherson, which also lies in one of the annexed regions. Russian Gen. Sergei Surovikin said this week that they may have to make “difficult decisions” in Kherson to “preserve the lives” of civilians and military personnel, which some have viewed as indicating Russian officials are considering a withdrawal of troops.