US Defense Secretary Austin calls for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

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US Defense Secretary Austin calls for immediate ceasefire in Ukraine

Lloyd Austin has urged his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu conducted their first phone call since the beginning of Moscow's operation in Ukraine in late February. Both sides confirmed the news on Friday.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

The press secretary, Austin, stressed the importance of maintaining lines of communication after nearly three months without contact with his Russian counterpart.

The Russian Ministry of Defense later on Friday confirmed the call, noting that the pair discussed issues of international security, including but not limited to the situation in Ukraine.

Russia attacked the neighboring state on February 24, after Ukraine didn't implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, 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 demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was unprovoked and has denied that it plans to retake the two republics by force.