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US Defense Secretary Esper invited to Moscow military parade

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper delivers a speech during the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., Sept. 18, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has invited U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper to a military parade in Moscow later this month, the Defense Ministry says.

The Russian ministry said Shoigu made the invitation during a telephone conversation on June 2, without saying whether Esper had accepted it.

The June 24 parade on Moscow’s Red Square is to mark the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. Russia traditionally holds the parade on May 9, but the grand celebration was postponed over the coronavirus pandemic that is still triggering thousands of new infections each day.

Relations between Washington and Moscow remain strained over a range of issues including the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

During their phone conversation, Shoigu and Esper discussed arms control and cooperation to fight the coronavirus epidemic, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

The ministry said the talks also touched upon measures to “de-conflict and stabilize the situation in Syria, as well as to ensure the security of military contingents in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On June 1, U.S. President Donald Trump had a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to discuss “the latest efforts to defeat the coronavirus pandemic and reopen global economies,” according to the White House.

It said Trump “reiterated the need for effective arms control.”

The Kremlin said that the two leaders also talked about the need to intensify a U.S.-Russian dialogue on strategic stability and steps to enhance mutual trust in the military sphere.

Last month, Washington announced it would pull out of the 35-nation Open Skies accord, which allows unarmed surveillance flights over member countries, due to what U.S. officials said were Russia’s violations.

The United States also cited Russian violations when it exited from of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

Moscow has denied the U.S. accusations.