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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke Friday with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for the first time in months, urging “an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby says.
The call between Austin and his Russian counterpart is the first since Feb. 18, according to Kirby. It’s also the first since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, which has now lasted 79 days.
“Secretary Austin urged an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication,” Kirby said.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testifies before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 11. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
Russia’s Ministry of Defense, in a statement about the call, said the two officials “discussed topical international security issues, including the situation in Ukraine.”
In late March, Kirby told Fox News that the Biden administration has been trying different avenues to reach the Kremlin, but to no avail.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Feb. 27. (Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via Reuters)
Then in mid-April, Shoigu – in a meeting with military officials – accused the United States and other Western countries of trying to “delay” the course of the war in Ukraine by sending shipments of weapons to Kyiv’s military.
“Increasing volumes of foreign arms deliveries clearly demonstrate their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian,” Shoigu said at the time.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 24 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense said Thursday that as the war drags on, Russia’s withdrawal of troops from a Ukrainian region that they encircled at the beginning of the war is proving their “inability to capture key Ukrainian cities.”
Fox News’ Liz Friden and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.