U.S., Russian Military Chiefs Speak On The Phone Amid Heightened Tensions Over Ukraine

By: - November 23, 2021

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The United States’ and Russia’s top military officers spoke over the phone on November 23, amid heightened Western concerns over Russian military moves near the Ukrainian border.

Kyiv and its Western backers have raised alarm bells in recent days over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine, whose military intelligence chief claimed on November 21 that Russia has amassed 92,000 troops near its borders and was readying an attack in early February.

The Kremlin has called such allegations “groundless.”

Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, and has been backing separatists in two of Ukraine’s eastern provinces in an ongoing conflict that has claimed more than 13,200 lives since April 2014.

General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and General Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed “current questions of international security,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on November 23.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed the call, saying in a statement that Gerasimov and Milley discussed “security-related issues of concern.”

“The phone call is a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction,” it said.

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Pentagon did not provide further details.

Earlier in the day, two patrol boats given to the Ukrainian Navy by the United States arrived at the Black Sea port of Odesa aboard a cargo ship, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv said the two Island-class patrol boats were “part of the more than $2.5 billion in security assistance the U.S. has provided Ukraine since 2014.”

“The vessels will help strengthen Ukraine’s maritime security and bolster the Ukrainian Navy’s interoperability with NATO,” it said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on November 23 that any U.S. moves to send more hardware and military advisers to Ukraine would only raise tensions further.

During a visit to Washington last week, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said he had requested increased U.S. military assistance.

Reznikov declined to name the weapons he had requested, saying only that in order “to stop [Russian] aggression, we need to show the cost will be too high.”

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service