U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke on January 6 with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and discussed "risk reduction near Ukraine’s borders," the Pentagon said in a brief statement.
"We're obviously still very concerned by what we're seeing," a U.S. defense official told Reuters, without commenting on the call itself.
The conversation comes amid Western concerns that Russia's buildup of around 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders could part of preparations for a potential invasion. Moscow has denied it.
Russia has demanded guarantees that Ukraine and other former Soviet countries will not join NATO and that there will be a rollback of the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
The West has rejected Moscow’s ultimatums regarding NATO and threatened severe sanctions and other measures if Russia launches a fresh incursion into Ukraine.
Russia illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea in 2014 and continues to rule the peninsula.