File photo of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Photograph:( Reuters )
The United States and NATO allies have threatened tough sanctions against Russia if it attacks Ukraine
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Thursday in a rare phone call. The two leaders spoke about upoming talks between the two sides over Ukraine crisis. The talks are to take place in Geneva.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the two discussed "risk reduction near Ukraine's borders," amid continuing worries in the United States and Western Europe that Russian could invade its pro-Western neighbor.
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Ukrainer raising fears of an invasion. The Kremlin has made it clear that it dead against Ukraine joining NATO. Ukraine is an ex-Soviet state.
The United States and NATO allies have threatened tough sanctions against Russia if it attacks Ukraine.
Moscow is accused of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine who have been locked in a deadly war with Ukraine forces since 2014, leaving at least 13,000 dead.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that talks with Russia on Monday will not succeed so long as there is a "gun to Ukraine's head."
If the talks are "going to show real progress, that will require de-escalation," Blinken said after discussions in Washington with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock.
(With inputs from agencies)