US and Russia open rare dialogue as superpowers discuss Ukraine crisis

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Moscow and Washington confirmed that US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu spoke on Friday and that the war in Ukraine was discussed. It was the first time the two men have spoken since a call on May 13.

Following the call, Pentagon press secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder told the BBC that Washington was “eager to keep lines of communication open”.

He added: “It has been since May since the two gentlemen spoke, so Secretary Austin took today as an opportunity to connect with Minister Shoigu.”

The Russian Defence Ministry explained that “current questions of international security were discussed, including the situation in Ukraine”.

Following their previous conversation in May, Mr Austin had urged Mr Shoigu to call an immediate ceasefire.

However, this request was not made following Friday’s call, possibly indicating that Washington believes that diplomacy is unlikely to work and the improved position of Ukrainian forces on the battlefield.

It comes after threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin that he might be willing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

According to officials in London and Washington, the chances of Putin following through with these threats is low.

Brig Gen Pat Ryder was asked if the call had been scheduled as a response to these threats made by the Russian President.

READ MORE: Ben Wallace jets to Washington for urgent talks as Putin fears mount

However, there have been no direct talks since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Washington has responded to the war in Ukraine by sending significant military aid to Ukraine and unleashing a package of sanctions on Russia.

Both leaders are set to attend the G20 in Indonesia next month but have indicated that they will avoid meeting each other.

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