Defense Secretary Austin speaks with Russian defense minister for first time in months and urges ceasefire

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Russian Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu for the first time in months on Friday, urging “an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine,” said Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

According to Kirby, the call between Austin and his Russian counterpart is the first since February 18. It is also the first since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, which now lasts 79 days.

“Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the importance of maintaining communication lines,” Kirby said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommitte on Defense at a hearing for the Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 11.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testifies before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommitte on Defense at a hearing for the Fiscal Year 2023 Department of Defense, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, May 11.
(AP / Jose Luis Magana)

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Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement on the call that the two officials “discussed current international security issues, including the situation in Ukraine”.

In late March, Kirby told Fox News that the Biden administration has tried several avenues to reach the Kremlin, but to no avail.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 27.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov attend a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 27.
(Sputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS)

In mid-April, Shoigu – in a meeting with military officials – accused the United States and other Western countries of trying to “slow down” the course of the war in Ukraine by sending arms shipments to the Kiev military.

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“Increasing amounts of foreign arms shipments clearly demonstrate their intentions to provoke the Kiev regime to fight to the last Ukrainian,” Shoigu said at the time.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a photo during their meeting on April 24 in Kiev, Ukraine.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pose for a photo during their meeting on April 24 in Kiev, Ukraine.
(Ukrainian Presidential Press Service via AP)

The United Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Thursday that as the war continues, Russia’s withdrawal of troops from a Ukrainian region it surrounded at the start of the war proves it has “inability to take key Ukrainian cities” .

Liz Friden and Ronn Blitzer of Fox News contributed to this report.

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