Austin asks Russian protection minister for cease-fire in Ukraine

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Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin urged his Russian counterpart Friday to contemplate a cease-fire in Ukraine throughout the first dialogue between the 2 leaders because the Russian invasion started practically three months in the past, the Pentagon mentioned.

Austin had not related with Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu since Feb. 18 — six days earlier than Russia commenced its assault on Ukraine — regardless of repeated makes an attempt by U.S. officers to take action, mentioned a senior U.S. protection official, talking on situation of anonymity underneath floor guidelines set by the Pentagon. The 2 males spoke for about an hour, and the official characterised their dialog as “skilled,” however declined to element what was mentioned.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin presses exhausting on Ukraine — however quietly

“It wasn’t for lack of attempting that we hadn’t been capable of set up” communications, the official mentioned. “We’ve been persistently asking for this dialog, and Minister Shoigu accepted for a name this week. However what motivated them to alter their minds and be open to it, I don’t assume we all know for positive.”

The dialogue occurred as Russia has expanded its navy presence in Ukraine — significantly within the jap areas of the nation after it earlier didn’t seize the capital metropolis of Kyiv and withdrew hundreds of troops. Russia now has about 105 battalion tactical teams in Ukraine, the Pentagon mentioned Friday, up barely from a Protection Division depend final week.

Shoigu and Austin additionally spoke as two international locations, Finland and Sweden, are taking steps towards making use of for NATO membership, a transfer that officers imagine would bolster their safety long-term however probably depart them susceptible to Russian retaliation. Every of NATO’s 30 present members should approve the functions for them to hitch, a course of that may take months.

The vast majority of the Russian navy’s efforts at the moment are targeted on Donbas, a piece of jap Ukraine that Moscow seems to need to seize. Russian forces have tried in current days to press south from the city of Izyum, which they already management, to the town of Slovyansk, however have encountered fierce Ukrainian resistance, the senior U.S. protection official mentioned.

Russian forces have made some “incremental” beneficial properties west of the city of Popasna, southeast of Slovyansk, the official added, however Ukrainian officers have had success north of the town of Kharkiv, a significant inhabitants heart within the northeast.

“We’ve mainly assessed that the Ukrainians proceed to make progress in reclaiming cities and villages round Kharkiv,” the official mentioned. “We’ve seen some progress by them pushing Russian forces nearer to the border and away from Kharkiv.”

The preventing within the area has become “very a lot an artillery combat backwards and forwards,” the senior U.S. protection official mentioned. In a single instance, Ukrainian forces have used artillery fireplace to stymie Russian makes an attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets, a river that flows from southern Russia into Ukraine, the protection official mentioned. Ukrainian officers mentioned in a Fb publish that that they had destroyed quite a few Russian automobiles close to the city of Lyman.

The Pentagon additionally mentioned that Ukraine is making an attempt to take again Snake Island, off the coast of the Ukraine-Romania border. Russia seized it early within the invasion, however satellite tv for pc imagery launched by Maxar on Thursday appeared to indicate the aftermath of missile assaults on a Russian navy touchdown craft close to the island. The pictures present smoke rising from places struck lately by munitions, the corporate mentioned.

Individually, the Army disclosed Friday that 4 models have been being rotated out for brand spanking new forces bolstering safety in Jap Europe — an indication that officers imagine the preventing in Ukraine is prone to drag on.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby mentioned that the deployments are short-term however mentioned that Austin and his employees are nonetheless reviewing what the everlasting U.S. navy presence in Europe ought to appear like in gentle of the invasion. There are greater than 100,000 American troops deployed all through Europe, an inflow of about 20,000 because the lead-up to Russia’s invasion, and officers anticipate that not less than a few of these extra personnel now alongside NATO’s jap flank will stay for years to come back.

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