Defense Minister Lloyd Austin, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hold first appeal since Russia invaded Ukraine

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his Russian counterpart, Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu, on Friday for the first time since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

During the conversation with Shoigu, according to a Pentagon read, Austin “pressed for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining communication lines.”

The call marks the first time the two officials have met since February 18, before Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

A reading from Russia’s Defense Ministry said the call was initiated by the US, and the two leaders discussed “current international security issues, including the situation in Ukraine”.

A US senior defense officer said the call lasted about an hour and confirmed that Austin had requested the call. Since mid-February, the Pentagon has been in consistent contact with Russian counterparts, but the Russians had previously shown no interest. It is now unclear why Shoigu agreed to Friday’s appeal.

The official described the tone of the call as “professional” and said that while it is important to keep the call and keep open lines of communication, the call itself did not solve any specific problems or change the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

The call came after the Pentagon determined that the Russians are two weeks behind their own schedule from where they now expect to be in southern and eastern Ukraine.

For the past two weeks, the Pentagon has described Russia’s advance as steady and incremental, but still uneven, and Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lieutenant General Scott Berrier told the Senate this week that the situation is “a bit of a stalemate.” “

“I think I would characterize it because the Russians don’t win and the Ukrainians don’t win,” Berrier said.

The phone call between Austin and Shoigu also took place just before Ukraine was about to receive a massive infusion of cash from the US. The Senate is expected to pass $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid next week to Ukraine.

At the same time, Russia’s stated goal in the war in Ukraine to stop NATO alliance expansion is now being turned upside down by Sweden and Finland, both of which want to join the Western defense alliance.

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