US, Russian defense chiefs have first phone call in 15 months

The defense chiefs of the United States and Russia have spoken over the phone for the first time in 15 months.

The US and Russian governments say US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Andrei Belousov, Russia's defense minister, held a phone conference on Tuesday. The call was initiated by Austin.

The US Defense Department says Austin "emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine."

Russia's defense ministry says that the ministers exchanged views on the situation around Ukraine.

It also says that Belousov highlighted the risks of further escalation due to continued US weapons supplies to the Ukrainian armed forces.

The last time the two countries' defense chiefs spoke was in March 2023. Tuesday's call was the first between Austin and Belousov, who became defense minister in May.