Russian defense minister holds talks by phone with U.S. counterpart: RIA

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MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks by phone with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the RIA news agency reported on Monday, citing the Russian ministry.

The talks were initiated by the U.S. side, RIA added. The Russian ministry did not disclose details of the talks, Interfax, another news agency, said.

In Washington, the Pentagon confirmed Esper and his Russian counterpart had spoken but declined to provide any details on what was discussed.

U.S.-Russia ties remain strained by everything from Syria to Ukraine as well as allegations of Russian interference in U.S. politics, which Moscow denies.

The Pentagon has put countering Russia, along with China, at the center of its national defense strategy in a shift of priorities after more than a decade and a half of focusing on the fight against Islamist militants.

Reporting by Polina Devitt and Idrees Ali; editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown