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US Defense Secretary Speaks With Russian Counterpart for First Time in Months: Pentagon

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held his first phone call with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu since the start of the - conflict, according to the Pentagon on Friday.

Austin, according to a Pentagon readout of the call, “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.” The statement, which said it’s the first time the two have spoken since Feb. 18, did not provide more details.

Shoigu later confirmed the phone call with Austin, according to Russian state-run media, saying that the two spoke about the Ukraine conflict, which Russian officials have described as a “special military operation,” and other undisclosed security matters.

It comes as the United Kingdom announced Friday it has imposed sanctions on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, including his ex-wife.

The UK sanctioned Putin’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, and Putin’s reported girlfriend, gymnast Alina Kabaeva, as well as several others, including Kabaeva’s grandmother, Anna

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