United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has reassured his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Andrii Taran, that Washington will not give up on Ukraine in case Russia escalates aggression.

The two defense chiefs had a phone call on Thursday, April 1, on the initiative of the American side, the Ukrainian defense ministry's press service reported.

For the second time over the past 1.5 months, the officials discussed the ways to strengthen cooperation in the field of security and defense.

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Read alsoKuleba, Blinken discuss latest escalation in DonbasTaran has briefed his counterpart on the military-political aspects of the latest developments on the contact line in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in Crimea, and around the state border of Ukraine. He separately focused on the March 26 tragic events near the village of Shumy, where Russian occupation forces "insidiously killed four Ukrainian servicemen."

Taran has stressed the "systematic escalation of the security situation in the Joint Forces Operation zone and Russia's unwillingness to reaffirm its commitment to the ceasefire."

For his part, Lloyd Austin expressed concern over the recent moves by Russia, and assured his counterpart of U.S. readiness to support Ukraine in the context of Russia's ongoing aggression in Donbas and Crimea.

The U.S. Secretary of Defense stressed that, in the event of an escalation of Russian aggression, the United States will not leave Ukraine to its own devices, and neither will it allow Russia's aggressive aspirations toward Ukraine to be realized, the Ukrainian defense ministry's press service reported.

The Pentagon press service in a readout of the call said Lloyd Austin "reiterated the U.S. commitment to building the capacity of Ukraine's forces to defend more effectively against Russian aggression."

"Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, including a recently announced $125 million package that featured defensive weapons and other key capabilities to enhance the lethality, command and control, and situational awareness of Ukraine's Armed Forces," the readout says.

Secretary Austin "reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations," and "condemned recent escalations of Russian aggressive and provocative actions in eastern Ukraine."

Russian military buildup near Ukraine: Background

  • On March 30, 2021, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Ruslan Khomchak, said the invaders are reinforcing their advanced units with reconnaissance teams and sniper pairs, involving Russian army instructors in personnel training.
  • Russian occupation forces are also keeping alert artillery units in combat readiness for use in certain areas, including in settlements located on the occupied territory of Ukraine.
  • The Pentagon said they were aware of the maneuvers of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine. The U.S. is discussing the issue with NATO Allies.
  • On April 1, the Kremlin commented on the amassing of Russian military forces near Ukraine's borders, saying this "should not bother" anyone.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky says Moscow is trying to put pressure on Kyiv by amassing its military forces along the Russian-Ukrainian border.
  • Ukraine's military intelligence agency, GUR MO, has reported that Russia may try to go for an incursion and deploy its troops deeper into the territory of Ukraine.
  • On April 1, Roman Mashovets, Deputy Chief of the President's Office, said that Russia is trying to disrupt the peace process. More than 570 ceasefire violations have been recorded since year-start.
  • Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has expressed concern over the latest escalation in Donbas, which he calls "largest in recent years", noting Russia's direct involvement in aggravation.