Top US military officer calls Russia, Ukraine over ‘concerns’ about troop buildup

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The U.S. military’s top officer on Wednesday spoke to his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to discuss “concerns” over a buildup of Russian forces and aggression in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon confirmed.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley spoke by phone with Ukraine Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Ruslan Khomchak about the security environment in Eastern Europe, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Milley also spoke by phone with Russia’s top officer, Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and the two “exchanged their views on issues of mutual concern,” Kirby said.

The Pentagon is “concerned about recent escalations of Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine,” including Friday’s violation of a cease-fire between the two countries — agreed upon in July 2020 — that led to the deaths of four Ukrainian soldiers.

The U.S. is also aware of Ukrainian military reports regarding Moscow’s troop movements on the border between the two countries.

Kirby said the Biden administration has reached out to Russia “to try to gain a little bit more clarity on what exactly is going on” and is also “discussing our concerns about this” with NATO allies.

“I suspect that the outreach by the chairman today … certainly covered this issue and those concerns,” Kirby added, referring further questions to Milley’s office.

Moscow in 2014 seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a conflict that Kyiv asserts has killed 14,000 people.

The tensions seem to have recently amplified, with unverified videos posted online this week showing a large amount of Russian hardware moving into Crimea. 

Also this week, Khomchak told his country’s parliament that Russian forces had been gathering near the border.

In response, U.S. European Command reportedly raised its watch condition status, and Biden administration officials have reached out to European countries to get a better sense of the situation.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan on Monday spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak.

“Mr. Sullivan affirmed the United States’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations in the face of continued Russian aggression,” Kirby said.

Tags Jake Sullivan Joe Biden Kyiv Mark Milley military commanders military officials Moscow Russia troop buildup troop movements Ukraine

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