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The Wall Street Journal: U.S. has held confidential talks with Russia to lower risk of wider escalation

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s top national-security adviser has engaged in recent months in confidential conversations with top aides to Russian President Vladimir Putin in an effort to reduce the risk of a broader conflict over Ukraine and warn Moscow against using nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction, U.S. and allied officials said.

The officials said that U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has been in contact with Yuri Ushakov, a foreign-policy adviser to Putin. Sullivan also has spoken with his direct counterpart in the Russian government, Nikolai Patrushev, the officials added. The aim has been to guard against the risk of escalation and keep communications channels open, and not to discuss a settlement of the war in Ukraine, the officials said.

Asked whether Sullivan has engaged in undisclosed conversations with Ushakov or Patrushev, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said: “People claim a lot of things” and declined to comment further. The Kremlin didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The White House hasn’t publicly acknowledged any calls between Sullivan and any senior Russian official since March, when he spoke with Patrushev.

The unpublicized discussions come as traditional diplomatic contacts between Washington and Moscow have dwindled and Putin and his aides have hinted he might resort to using nuclear arms to protect Russian territory, as well as gains made in his invasion of Ukraine this year.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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