Austin asks his Russian counterpart for a ceasefire in his first call since February

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. – Boris Roessler/dpa

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The Secretary of Defense of the United States, Lloyd Austin, has asked his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for an “immediate” ceasefire in Ukraine, in what has been the first conversation between the two since February 18, days before Moscow began the invasion.

In a brief statement, the spokesman for the United States Department of Defense, John Kirby, has detailed that Austin has also emphasized to Shoigu the “importance” of keeping communication channels open.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has reported on the conversation between Austin and Shoigu and has specified that both have discussed “current issues of international security, including the situation in Ukraine.” In a statement, according to the Russian news agency Interfax, the Russian portfolio has indicated that the conversation took place at the initiative of the US side.

In his last conversation, the head of the Pentagon called for a “de-escalation” of tensions in Ukraine, which Washington saw as a withdrawal of Russian troops who were near the Ukrainian border.

Less than a week later, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the start of the offensive in Ukraine, which has so far left more than 3,000 dead, according to United Nations figures. So far, six million Ukrainians are refugees as a result of the conflict and eight have become internally displaced.

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