Day 241: US and Russia Defense Ministers Hold Rare Talks; UN Says Over 15K Civilian Casualties in Ukraine

In a call reportedly initiated by the US, the country's Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin held a rare conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, on Friday. It was only their second call since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the pair's first since May 13.

Day 241: US and Russia Defense Ministers Hold Rare Talks; UN Says Over 15K Civilian Casualties in Ukraine
Image credit: AFP / Getty Images [via CNN]

Facts

  • In a call reportedly initiated by the US, the country's Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin held a rare conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, on Friday. It was only their second call since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the pair's first since May 13.
  • Details from either government were scant, but both confirmed they discussed the conflict in Ukraine. A US military spokesperson said: "Sec. Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid the ongoing war against Ukraine."
  • Russian news agency TASS quoted Konstantin Gavrilov, a senior security diplomat, telling Russian television: "We need to eliminate misunderstandings so that there are no accidents," referencing small-scale incidents at sea, for instance, and possible larger-scale miscommunications regarding nuclear weapons. He added: "These contacts are always important, and it is crucial that the Americans were the first to go for it."
  • Meanwhile, at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday, Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, confirmed the agency's figures, which indicate there have been at least 15,956 civilian casualties in Ukraine — with 6,322 killed and 9,634 injured since the war commenced on February 24. The real figures, she says, are likely to be somewhat higher.
  • In the meantime, new Russian strikes were reported across Ukraine on Saturday — namely in the regions of Kyiv, Rivne, Chernihiv, Kirovohrad, and Odesa, as well as in Cherkasky, Dnipropetrovsk, Sumy, and Mykolaiv. At this stage, only three people were reported injured in Odesa.
  • This comes as Ukraine's national energy operator, Ukrenergo, announced on Saturday that some parts of the country are reducing electricity use by up to 20% after Moscow reportedly launched "a massive" 33 cruise missile attack overnight on key infrastructure, including energy facilities and water supply systems. The attack has reportedly left hundreds of thousands in central and western Ukraine without power.

Sources: New York Post, Guardian, Tass, Ukrinform, Pravda, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Ukrinform. US commitment to Ukraine remains unwavering. The Biden administration will never accept Russia's illegal annexation of four territories and will do everything in its power to help Ukraine restore its land in the face of Russian aggression.
  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Newsweek. After nearly eight months of war, it's time for the US to rethink its course in Ukraine. Pledges to fight Russia for as long as it takes aren't in the US's interest and don't serve its real intention of de-escalation, détente, and peace.

Predictions