US and Russian Defense Chiefs Hold Phone Call Amid Ukraine War

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

The US and Russian defense chiefs held a phone call on Tuesday, discussing the importance of maintaining communication despite the ongoing conflict between the two nuclear-armed nations. This was Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s first conversation with Andrey Belousov, who succeeded 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,” according to a Pentagon spokesperson, Pat Ryder, who provided a summary of the call.

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

The conversation occurred two days after a Ukrainian missile strike on a crowded beach in Crimea killed four people, including two children. Moscow condemned Kiev’s “barbaric” attack, which injured more than 150 people, claiming Ukraine used US-supplied ATACMS long-range missiles equipped with cluster munitions. The Russian Ministry of Defense also accused the US of aiding the Ukrainians in choosing targets for missile attacks. “We understand perfectly well who is behind this,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

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

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

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