Pentagon chief speaks with Russia’s new defense minister
Pentagon chief speaks with Russia’s new defense minister

Lloyd Austin and Andrey Belousov spoke two after a Ukrainian missile exploded over a packed beach in Crimea

Russian and US defense chiefs spoke over the phone on Tuesday, discussing the need to maintain communication despite the ongoing standoff between the two nuclear powers. It was Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s first direct conversation with Andrey Belousov who replaced Sergey Shoigu as Russia’s Defense Minister last month.

Austin has “emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in the readout of the call.

The Russian MOD released a short statement, saying that Austin and Belousov have “exchanged views about the situation around Ukraine.” Belousov warned the Pentagon chief about “the dangers of further escalation in terms of the continuing deliveries of American weapons to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”

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The conversation took place two days after four beachgoers, including two children, were killed during a Ukrainian missile strike in Crimea. Moscow condemned Kiev’s “barbaric” attack that also injured more than 150 people, saying that Ukraine had used US-supplied ATACMS long-range missiles with cluster munitions. The MOD also accused the US of helping the Ukrainians pick targets for missile strikes. “We understand perfectly well who is behind this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

The US had previously authorized Kiev to use some of the Western weapons for strikes deep inside Russia during Moscow’s new offensive in Ukraine’s Kharkov Region.

Speaking in Brussels earlier this month, Austin reiterated Washington’s support for Kiev. “Make no mistake: Ukraine’s partners around the world have its back,” he said.

Moscow has maintained, however, that no amount of foreign aid can stop its troops in Ukraine.

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