US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu on 13 May. Austin has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.

In a key development, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu on Friday, 13 May, in what was their first interaction since February 18. During the telephonic conversation, Austin sought an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and stressed the requirement for maintaining lines of communication. The call between the two leaders comes as the war between Russia and Ukraine transcended 70 days with no signs of cessation anywhere in sight.

"Secretary Austin urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication," according to the readout of the call between Austin and Shoygu.

The call between Austin and Shoygu lasted for about an hour and it was initiated at the request of the US Defence Secretary. A senior Defence Department official stated that Lloyd Austin is of the opinion that the hour-long talks were a significant step in the effort to keep lines of communication open, according to AP. However, he stressed that the talks did not resolve any "acute issues" or result in any change in the Russian action. It is pertinent to note that US Defence officials, for the past few months, have stated that Russian leaders have refused to talk to Austin and Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to AP. Another senior official noted that after the telephonic conversation between Austin and Shoygu, it is expected that General Milley might speak to his Russian counterpart General Valery Gerasimov, Russian chief of the general staff. It is pertinent to mention here that ever since Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine, the US has been announcing embargoes against Russia and providing defence and financial assistance to Ukraine.

Ever since Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognising the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the subsequent conflict that ensued, the hostilities between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in the deaths of people in the war-torn nation. Luhansk Governor Serhyi Haidai said that Russian forces have suffered heavy losses in Bilohorivka. He claimed that the entire Russian battalion has refused to launch the offensive, The Kyiv Independent reported. According to Serhiy Haidai, Ukraine has destroyed almost 90 units of heavy equipment of Russian forces. In the latest defence update on 13 May, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry claimed that Russia has lost nearly 26,900 soldiers, 2,900 Armoured Personnel Vehicles (APV), 1,205 tanks, 542 artillery systems, 193 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), and at least 88 anti-aircraft warfare since February 24. In addition, the Russian troops lost 405 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), 200 planes, 162 helicopters, 95 cruise missiles, 41 special equipment and 13 boats.