US defense chief speaks with his Russian counterpart

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart on Friday, marking the first time the two men have been in contact since Moscow launched its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in late February.

Pentagon press spokesman John Kirby said Austin called for an immediate halt in Ukraine during his hour-long discussion with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu.

A senior Defense Department official said Austn sought an opportunity to speak with Shoygu.

“He thinks it was important to make that call,” the Defense Department official told reporters.

“It was not for lack of trying that we have not been able to establish communications.”

Pentagon officials declined to release information about discussions between top military leaders in Washington and Moscow.

“The secretary expressed an interest in keeping the lines of communication open,” the senior defense official said. “The message was received regarding keeping the lines open.”

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