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US defense secretary urges Russian counterpart to maintain communication on Ukraine

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US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday to keep “lines of communication” open on the war in Ukraine, a spokesman said.

“Secretary Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine,” Brigadier General Pat Ryder said in a statement following their phone call.

Russia also confirmed the call - the second between the two officials since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24.

In his last call with Shoigu on May 13, Austin urged Moscow to implement an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine.

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Russia did not do so, and Kyiv’s forces have since regained swathes of territory from Moscow’s troops in the east and south of the country.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have sunk to new lows since the start of the war.

Russia has accused the US of seeking to prolong the conflict by providing financial and military aid to pro-Western Ukraine, while Washington has condemned Moscow’s invasion as illegal.

Austin also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksiy Reznikov “to reiterate the unwavering US commitment to supporting Ukraine’s ability to counter Russia’s aggression,” Ryder said in a separate statement Friday.

The defense secretary “underscored the international community’s continued support in building Ukraine’s enduring strength and safeguarding Ukraine’s ability to defend itself in the future,” the statement said.

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