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Defense ministers of Russia and the United States discussed the war in Ukraine in rare talks Russia


Russia’s defense minister held rare phone talks with his American counterpart on Friday after pro-Kremlin officials said they were turning the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson into a “fortress” as Kiev’s forces advance.

It was not known about the conversation between Russian leader Sergei Shaigu and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, but both sides confirmed that they discussed Ukraine.

“Current issues of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine,” the Ministry of Defense of Russia noted.

The Pentagon declined to provide specifics, except that Austin, who initiated the conversation, emphasized the need for communications amid the war in Ukraine.

“Minister Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining communication lines against the background of the ongoing war against Ukraine,” said a representative of the US military department.

Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Russian diplomat Konstantin Gavrilov, who is based in Vienna, as telling Russian television: “Misunderstandings must be cleared up so that there are no accidents… these are always important contacts, and it is important that the Americans are the first to do so.”

Gavrilov, a senior security negotiator, also said that after the call, Moscow was waiting for an explanation about NATO’s nuclear deterrence exercises, TASS added.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday offered the best opportunity for the two sides to talk, without explaining why. She did not say whether additional talks are planned between them.

It was only the second conversation between the ministers since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. In May, Austin called on Moscow to “immediately cease fire.”

At that time, the invading Russian forces were repulsed from the capital, Kiev, but steadily gained ground in the eastern Donbass and Kharkiv regions and strengthened their positions in the south.

However, six months later, the Ukrainian troops retreated.

In recent weeks, the forces of Kiev – with the help of Western weapons – advanced along the western bank of the Dnieper to the main city of the Kherson region.

It was the first major city to be captured by Moscow’s forces, and recapturing it would be a significant reward in Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Reuters and Agence-France Presse contributed to this report


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