US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu have talked on the phone for the first time since May, discussing “international security problems,” American and Russian officials have announced.
The two discussed “international security problems, notably the situation in Ukraine,” according to a readout posted Friday by Russia’s defense ministry on the Telegram social media platform reported by the country’s TASS news agency.
Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed the discussion, saying that Austin “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine.”
This is only the second time the two have spoken since Russia began its “special military operation” in Ukraine back in February. The first call was on May 13, during which Austin had reportedly urged his Russian counterpart to consider a cease-fire, and was snubbed.
The Pentagon refused to elaborate on specifics beyond asserting that Austin, who initiated the conversation, emphasized a need for lines of communication amid the war in Ukraine.
“Misunderstandings must be cleared up so that there are no accidents … these are always important contacts, and it’s important the Americans were the first to go for it,” TASS reported, quoting Vienna-based Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov that spoke with Russian television.
Gavrilov, who is a senior security negotiator, further stated that in the wake of the call Moscow expected clarification about nuclear deterrence exercises that the US-led NATO military alliance is currently carrying out, TASS added.
The development comes amid persisting Russian missile attacks against Ukrainian targets in retaliation of a recent truck bombing attack that partially destroyed a major bridge linking Russia to Crimea.
This is while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Kiev’s Western allies on Friday to warn Moscow against blowing up a dam in southern Ukraine that would cause massive flooding.
Russia, meanwhile, has accused Kiev forces of attacking the dam with rockets in a scheme to destroy it.