Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu spoke over the phone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Friday.

The two military chiefs discussed “the pressing issues of international security,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Austin called on the de-escalation around Ukraine, the ministry’s statement said.

Earlier in the day, the Defense Ministry announced the arrival of the advance units that took part in the military drill in the south of the country to the places of permanent deployment.

Western countries have accused Russia of amassing more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, prompting fears that it could be planning a military offensive against its ex-Soviet neighbor.

Denying that it is preparing to invade, Moscow has accused Western countries of undermining its security through NATO’s expansion towards its borders.

The Kremlin says it has pulled back some of its troops following military exercises, but Western leaders argue they have yet to see any evidence of that.

Russia also demanded a rollback of troop deployments from some ex-Soviet states, and guarantees that NATO would not accept some of those states into the military alliance.

NATO, however, said its “door remains open” and any decision on membership is for allies and aspirant countries to take, and nobody else.

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