Top U.S., Russian generals speak for first time since Ukraine invasion


FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense in Washington, U.S., May 3, 2022. Win McNamee/Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, spoke by telephone with Russia's Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, the Pentagon said on Thursday, the first conversation between the two since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

"The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open," said a spokesman for Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private," the spokesman added.

The U.S. military readout did not mention any specific issues that were discussed.

RIA news agency, citing the Russian defense ministry, said the two military leaders discussed issues of "mutual interest," including Ukraine.

The call took place after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart last week, and the Pentagon chief called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

The United States and Russia have established a hotline since the invasion - which Moscow calls a "special military operation" - began on Feb. 24 to prevent miscalculation and any widening of the conflict.

The "deconfliction" hotline is an open phone line based at the European Command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, and falls under Air Force General Tod Wolters, who leads all U.S. forces in Europe.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Wolters said he hoped the call between Milley and Gerasimov was one step closer to a diplomatic solution in Ukraine.

Still, there appears to be little momentum on the diplomatic front, more than two months after the start of Russia's invasion, which has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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