The US has confirmed it has opened communication channels between Washington and Moscow despite the war in Ukraine.
Speaking in New York, US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan
said it was “in the interests” of the US to maintain contact with the Kremlin.
But he insisted officials were “clear-eyed about who we are dealing with”.
The news comes as the White House has not denied reports that the US has been engaging in talks with Russia to prevent a nuclear escalation in Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sullivan has held confidential discussions with his Russian counterpart, Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev, and senior Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov, over the past several months.
Senior US officials reportedly told the Washington Post the men had discussed ways to guard against the risk of nuclear escalation in the war in Ukraine, but had not engaged in any negotiations around ways to end the conflict.
Last month, Sullivan said any use of nuclear weapons would have “catastrophic consequences for Russia”. He told NBC that senior officials had “spelled out” the scope of the potential US response in private discussions with Russian officials.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that senior US officials were urging Kyiv to signal an openness to hold negotiations with Russia and drop Volodimir Zelensky’s public refusal to discuss an end to the war while President Vladimir Putin remained in power.
But Sullivan told a public event in New York that the Biden administration had “an obligation to pursue accountability” and pledged to work with international partners to “hold the perpetrators of grave and grotesque war crimes in Ukraine responsible for what they have done”.
“I was just in Kyiv on Friday. and I had the opportunity to meet with President [Volodymyr] Zelensky and my counterpart Andriy Yermak, with the military leadership and also to get a briefing on just what level of death and devastation has been erupted by Putin’s war on that country,” Sullivan said.