Austin has called on Russia’s defense minister to call for a ceasefire in Ukraine

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday called on his Russian counterpart to consider a ceasefire in Ukraine during the first round of talks between the two leaders since the start of the Russian offensive. The Pentagon said about three months ago.

Austin has not contacted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since February 18 – six days before Russia’s start. Attacks on Ukraine – Despite repeated attempts by U.S. officials to do so, a senior U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity under Pentagon-imposed ground rules. The two men talked for about an hour, and officials identified their conversation as “professional,” but declined to elaborate.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin has pressed hard on Ukraine – but calmly

“It’s not that we weren’t able to communicate because of the lack of effort,” the official said. “We are constantly asking for this conversation, and Minister Shoigu has accepted a call this week. But what motivated them to change their minds and be open about it, I don’t think we know for sure. “

Russia has been discussed It has expanded its military presence in Ukraine – especially in the eastern part of the country Earlier, it withdrew after failing to capture the capital city of Kiev Thousands of soldiers. Russia now has about 105 battalion strategic teams in Ukraine, the Pentagon said Friday, slightly above last week’s Defense Department count.

Shoigu and Austin also spoke of the two countries, Finland and Sweden, as moving towards applying for NATO membership, a move that officials believe Strengthening their security in the long run but potentially leaving them at risk for Russian retaliation. Each of NATO’s 30 current members must approve applications for their accession, a process that can take months.

Most of the Russian military’s efforts now centered on Donbass, a part of eastern Ukraine that Moscow seems to want to occupy. Russian forces have tried in recent days to push south from the city of Izim, which they already control, in the town of Sloviansk, but have met stiff resistance from Ukraine, a U.S. defense official said.

Russian forces have gained some “growth” west of the town of Popasna, southeast of Sloviansk, officials add, but Ukrainian officials have succeeded north of the city of Kharkiv, a major population center in the northeast.

“We have assessed that the Ukrainians are making progress in the recovery of towns and villages in the vicinity of Kharkiv,” the official said. “We have seen some progress by them pushing Russian forces closer to the border and away from Kharkiv.”

The U.S. Defense Department says fighting in the region has “turned a lot into an artillery war.” In one instance, Ukrainian forces used artillery fire to stop The Russians are trying to cross the Sivarsky Donate, a river that flows from southern Russia into Ukraine, defense officials say. Ukrainian officials said in a Facebook post that they had destroyed a number of Russian vehicles near the town of Lyman.

The Pentagon also said That Ukraine is trying to retake Snake Island off the coast of the Ukraine-Romania border. Russia captured it early in the attack, but a satellite image released by Maxar on Thursday shows the aftermath of a Russian military landing missile attack near the island. The images show smoke rising from areas recently hit by weapons, the agency said.

Separately, the military announced on Friday that four units were being deployed for new forces to bolster security in Eastern Europe – a sign that officials believe war in Ukraine could drag on.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the deployments were temporary but that Austin and his staff were still reviewing what a permanent U.S. military presence in Europe should look like in light of the attack. More than 100,000 American troops are deployed across Europe, with about 20,000 arriving since Russia led the offensive, and officials estimate that at least some of these additional personnel will now be on the NATO frontier for at least the next year.

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