Russia’s defence minister calls up US, UK counterparts, raises escalation concerns in Ukraine

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Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Sunday (October 23) called up his counterparts in the US, UK, France and Turkiye on Sunday (October 23) and discussed the situation in Ukraine. 
Shoigu discussed the situation in Ukraine on a phone call with Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, said Russian defence ministry. This was the second call in three days between the US and Russian defence ministers.

“The heads of defence departments discussed the situation in Ukraine,” the ministry said in a statement on social media.

Prior to his call to Austin, Shoigu also spoke with his counterparts in UK, Turkiye and France.

UK’s Ministry of Defence tweeted a statement.

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In a statement from Russian foreign ministry, Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate the situation with a “dirty bomb,” a type of “radiological dispersal device” that combines a conventional explosive, such as dynamite, with radioactive material. 

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Sunday “refuted” claims by Moscow that Western countries were facilitating a planned escalation of the war in Ukraine.

“The defence secretary refuted these claims and cautioned that such allegations should not be used as a pretext for greater escalation,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a statement, noting Moscow had requested the conversation.

The rare call between Russian defence minister and his western counterparts came on a day when Russian missile attack on Mykolaiv in Ukraine destroyed an apartment block on Sunday (October 23). Mykolaiv is roughly 35 km northwest from Kherson. Ukrainian forces have targetted the Russian-annexed Kherson region in a major counteroffensive. 

Russian missile attack on Mykolaiv wiped out the top floor of an apartment block. The missile blasts propelled shrapnels and debris into neighbouring buildings. Reuters said that there were no fatalities.

Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram that Ukraine shot down 14 Russian “kamikaze” drones over Mykolaiv overnight.

The sudden hightened communications have raised suspicions of some brewing trouble as Russian authorities have been telling people in Kherson region to evacuate and save their lives, alleging a ‘terrorist’ attack from Ukraine. 

On the other hand, Ukraine has been accusing Russia of mining the Kakhovka dam on the Dnieper river saying it would cause massive devastation. 

On Sunday, Russia told people in occupied Kherson to flee for their lives as more residents joined an exodus to escape an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Russia’s proxies in the southern region are trying to evacuate up to 60,000 people who live on the western bank of the Dnipro river.

Reuters reported the Russian education minister Sergei Kravtsov saying in a video message, “The situation today is difficult. It’s vital to save your lives. It won’t be for long. You will definitely return.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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