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Amid Ukraine crisis, US Defense Secy speaks with 15 NATO ally, European counterparts

Washington [US]: US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with fifteen of his NATO ally and European counterparts regarding Russia's military operations in Ukraine, Pentagon informed on Friday. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that Austin the Secretary spoke individually with Defense Ministers from Canada and Turkey. Austin also convened a virtual European Quint meeting with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, Kirby said. According to the Pentagon statement, Austin also participated for the first time in a secure teleconference with the counterparts from the Bucharest Nine (B-9) Countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. "Secretary Austin made clear that the United States stands united with our Allies and partners to support Ukraine and to deter aggression against NATO, while avoiding conflict with Russia. The United States' commitment to defending NATO territory is ironclad and the United States will continue to bolster our posture to better defend our NATO Allies," the US Defense said in a release.In the wake of Russian military operations, Austin said the US has deployed an additional 15,000 forces in recent days and weeks and now has more than 90,000 U.S. service members in Europe. "We have repositioned other forces within Europe to assure our Allies and deter Russian aggression against NATO," the Pentagon said. Austin lauded the unifying steps taken at NATO and commended its allies for the steps they have taken to bolster NATO's Eastern Flank and to provide security assistance to Ukraine. He asked NATO Allies to consider additional contributions to strengthen NATO's defensive posture and bolster Ukraine's capacity to defend itself in the face of "Russian aggression". Austin also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart, Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov. The US Defense Secretary made clear that the United States' support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering and that it will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine.

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