US, Russian military chiefs speak by phone amid concern over Ukraine

Mark Milley testifies before the Senate
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Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley spoke via telephone on Tuesday with Russia’s top military officer, Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov, amid the U.S.’s heightened concerns about Russia amassing troops near the Ukrainian border.

The military leaders discussed “several security-related issues of concern,” Col. Dave Butler, Joint Staff spokesperson, said in a readout of the call

“The phone call is a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction,” Butler said.

In a separate statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said the military chiefs “discussed the ongoing issues of international security,” according to Russian news agency TASS.

Neither of the statements provided further detail into the conversations.

Milley’s call comes as the U.S. and NATO fear that Moscow is massing troops to prepare for a military operation over Ukraine’s eastern border like it did when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The Joints Chiefs chairman spoke with Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Monday. According to a readout of that call, the two “exchanged perspectives and assessments of the evolving security environment in Eastern Europe.”

CNN reported Tuesday that Washington is considering sending military advisers and new weapons near Ukraine, which would include mortars, air defense systems and new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles. 

Meanwhile, Moscow on Monday accused Ukraine of being provocative, and raised concerns about Washington aiding the country. 

“The United States and its allies continue to pump up weapons to Ukraine, push it toward using such weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles for the purposes of military provocations,” the Russian Foreign Intelligence said in a statement. 

Milley previously met with Gerasimov in Helsinki in September. At the time, Milley said that U.S. and Russia should increase communication to prevent a possible future conflict.

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