According to the Pentagon, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for an “immediate truce” in Ukraine, as he spoke with his Russian counterpart for the first time since the war began.
Austin acknowledged the call in a tweet on Friday, saying it was the first time he has spoken with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu since February 18. “I supported a rapid ceasefire in Ukraine and underlined the importance of maintaining communication lines,” Austin tweeted.
Russian troops are continuing their offensive in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, leading US President Joe Biden’s administration to provide billions in military and humanitarian help to Kyiv. Since Moscow’s assault on its neighbor began on February 24, Austin has attempted to speak with Shoigu several times, but authorities say the Russian side has been un-interested.
What Is Lloyd Austin and Russian Counterpart Talking About?
According to a US official who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, the two leaders spoke for nearly an hour on Friday but did not resolve any specific issues or result in direct changes in Russian policy in Ukraine. The tone of the call was assessed as “professional” by the official.
According to Russia’s TASS news agency, the call took place “at the initiative of the American side.”Topic concerns of international security, including the situation in Ukraine, were discussed,” TASS said, citing the ministry. Russia has frequently warned the United States and its European allies against supplying Kyiv with heavy artillery and other weapons that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has requested to counter Russian aggression in the country’s east.
In an interview with Al Jazeera last month, Zelenskyy said that if Russia succeeds in seizing the eastern region, it may try again to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. The US director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, indicated last week that Russia’s military deployment to the Donbas region is merely temporary.
“We believe President [Vladimir] Putin is preparing for a protracted struggle in Ukraine, during which he will pursue objectives outside the Donbas,” Haines told US lawmakers on Tuesday. “We believe Putin’s strategic intentions have not changed, implying that his decision to refocus Russian forces on the Donbas in late March was merely a temporary pivot to reclaim the initiative following the Russian military’s failure to conquer Kyiv.
“In the meantime, Zelenskyy said on Thursday that he was willing to meet with Putin face to face in order to end the situation, which the UN says has forced over six million people to flee Ukraine.”I am willing to speak with Putin, but only with him.”
Without any of his middlemen. In the context of conversation, not ultimatums,” the Ukrainian president remarked in an interview with Rai 1 in Italy. However, he stated that the possibility of such negotiations taking place was “complex.
“It’s because every day, tiny villages are being de-occupied, and we see the Russian military’s traces of harassment, torture, and executions.” As a result, the potential of conversations becomes more complicated,” Zelenskyy explained.