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Russian and US top generals hold talks

Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov
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Russian Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov and chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley held a rare series of phone calls on Thursday.

The two top military officials discussed various “issues of mutual interest,” including the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. The talks were held at the request of the American side, it noted. The Pentagon remained tight-lipped as well, providing no details on the conversation.

“The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open,” a spokesman for Milley has said. “In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private.”

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Tod Wolters, expressed his hope that the talks between Gerasimov and Milley would bring a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis one step closer.

The high-profile talks come less than a week after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke for the first time since the beginning of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine in late February. Few details on the top level talks have emerged since then, with both sides only confirming that Austin and Shoigu discussed assorted security issues including, but not limited to, the Ukraine crisis.

Russia attacked the neighboring state following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.