Russian Defense Minister Won't Return Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Calls

Russian Defense Minister Won't Return Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Calls

The relationship between the US and Russia is almost at Cold War-level, and it does not help that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is ignoring phone calls from U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday that Mr. Hagel has been trying to communicate with Russian officials but has yet to hear back from Mr. Shoigu or anyone else. Pentagon officials have reached out to Russia on Mr. Hagel’s behalf within the past 24 hours, according to Col. Warren.

“We have made it clear to the Russians that Secretary Hagel is available for a phone call at any time,” he said. “We have reached out to them and made it very [clear] to them that he is willing to speak to his counterpart there at any time.”

Russia amassed over 40,000 troops on the Ukraine border since early March as pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine seized government buildings and kidnapped journalists and politicians. The Ukrainian army took over three checkpoints around Sloviansk, killing five pro-Russian forces. Moscow said its troops on the border will engage in military exercises in case Russian interests need to be protected in Ukraine.

Mr. Hagel intends to call on the Russians to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and express to them that the new round of military exercises along the Ukrainian border are unhelpful, Col. Warren said. The Russians, he said, “need to withdraw their troops from the Ukranian border and place them back into their garrisons.”

On Friday, pro-Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian helicopter in Kramatorsk, injuring the pilot. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Russia wants to start World War III due to Moscow’s constant provocations toward Ukraine.