- Associated Press - Friday, March 3, 2017

MOSCOW (AP) - The Russian Defense Ministry says the nation’s top military officer has spoken to his NATO counterpart for the first time in several years.

The ministry said Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, had a phone call Friday with Czech Army Gen. Petr Pavel, the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee.

It was the first such high-level contact since NATO suspended a dialogue with Russia in 2014 over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The ministry said Gerasimov and Pavel discussed prevention of incidents, prospects for restoring military cooperation and acute security issues. It said Gerasimov relayed Moscow’s concerns about NATO’s buildup near Russian borders and the generals confirmed the need for joint steps to reduce tensions.

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