US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg discussed on Monday the need for Russia to end its buildup of forces along the Ukrainian border.
The call comes as Blinken prepares to visit Brussels, Belgium beginning on Wednesday where he will meet with NATO counterparts alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Secretary Blinken and Secretary General Stoltenberg discussed a range of issues, including the immediate need for Russia to cease its aggressive military buildup along Ukraine’s borders and in occupied Crimea,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“They also discussed the prospects for advancing peace in Afghanistan as well as plans for the upcoming NATO Summit,” added Price.
The phone talk comes after Ukraine earlier on Monday called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the border.
The level of Russia’s force buildup has not been seen since 2014 when Moscow seized annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and began its support for separatists in the eastern Donbas region.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement it has activated the 2011 Vienna document on confidence- and security-building measures, and officially asked Russia about its military presence along its border with Ukraine.
“The Russian side refused to provide substantive information in accordance with the request, stating that it does not conduct such activities,” the ministry said.
“We call on the Russian side to withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine, stop bellicose rhetoric and disinformation, and start faithfully implementing the provisions of the Minsk Agreements and its obligations under the OSCE Vienna Document,” it said.
The conflict in the eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has escalated in recent weeks. The Ukrainian Army said one Ukrainian soldier was killed Sunday night in cross-border firing.
Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has seen more than 13,000 people killed, according to the UN.