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Russian military leaders rejecting outreach from US counterparts

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan at the Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC.
AFP/Pool

Top U.S. defense officials have received no response to outreach to their Russian counterparts since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gen. Valery Gerasimov “have so far declined to engage” in phone calls with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Over the past month, Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley have sought, and continue to seek, calls with their Russian counterparts. Minister Shoigu and General Gerasimov have so far declined to engage,” Kirby said.

Relations between the two countries on the diplomatic front have deteriorated as well. Russia this week warned the U.S. that relations could be severed over President Biden calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal and informed the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it was expelling some diplomats. 

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not communicated with his Russian counterpart either, but Kirby stated maintaining connections between defense officials in both countries is “critically importance at this time,” according to the Post. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. said it has officially determined that Russia has committed war crimes in Ukraine, as thousands have died during the conflict — including hundreds of civilians with shelling of hospitals, arts centers and bomb shelters. 

The U.S. has been careful not to take military actions that could escalate the war in Ukraine, such as imposing a no-fly zone over the country. 

The U.S. has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russian officials and companies while also providing hundreds of millions worth of arms to Ukraine’s military, which has thus far held off Russian efforts to take major population centers. 

Updated: Thursday at 12:57 p.m. 

Tags Antony Blinken Antony Blinken Federal government of the United States Joe Biden John Kirby Lloyd Austin Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Mark Milley Military Post-Soviet conflicts Reactions to the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis Russo-Ukrainian War Sergei Shoigu Valery Gerasimov Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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