A rare phone call between the Russian and American defense ministers

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, while tensions remained at the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Kirby added in a brief statement that the two ministers discussed the issue of reducing dangers at Ukraine’s borders.

Europeans, Americans and Kiev have accused the Russians for weeks of massing tens of thousands of soldiers at the Ukrainian border with the aim of a possible invasion. The West has repeatedly threatened to impose “enormous” and unprecedented sanctions if the Kremlin does so.

For its part, Russia denies the threat to Ukraine and stresses that it must protect itself from the hostility of Westerners who support Kiev, especially in its struggle with pro-Russian separatists.

Russia is widely considered the main supporter of these separatists involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine for nearly eight years, which has so far claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people.

It is scheduled to start US-Russian talks next Monday in Geneva, followed by a meeting between NATO and Russia and another meeting with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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