A man walks past a building damaged by Russian airstrikes in Vasylkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

A man walks past a building damaged by Russian airstrikes in Vasylkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 2, 2022. Los Angeles Times / Marcus Yam

US, Russia Agree to Deconfliction Hotline As Putin’s Attack On Ukraine Escalates

Russia has fired almost 500 missiles at Ukrainian targets.

As Russia’s aerial attack on Ukrainian cities intensifies, U.S. European Command and Moscow have agreed to a deconfliction hotline to avoid any miscalculation that could drag both countries into a larger conflict. 

“The United States retains a number of channels to discuss critical security issues with the Russians during a contingency or emergency. The Department of the Defense recently established a deconfliction line with the Russian Ministry of Defense on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation,” a senior defense official confirmed in a statement to Defense One.

News of the deconfliction line was first reported by NBC News. 

The U.S. and Russia started a similar phone line as both conducted air operations over Syria in 2017, but had not been in communication in the days leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In the week since, the U.S. has pulled all manned and unmanned aircraft from Ukrainian airspace and has said repeatedly it would not put forces on the ground or in the air, to avoid any possibility of a situation where it would have to fire onRussian aircraft or troops and escalate the invasion of Ukraine into a direct war. But the U.S. continues to provide intelligence and weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself. 

The deconfliction line comes as a humanitarian effort to help civilians fleeing Ukraine and those under siege ramps up, and Russia’s bombing of Ukrainian cities intensifies. In the week since the invasion, Russia has fired more than 480 missiles or munitions at Ukrainian targets, most of which have been fired from inside Ukraine.

As of March 2, the United Nations Human Rights agency reported at least 802 civilian casualties: At least 249 killed, including 17 children and 553 injured from “shelling and  airstrikes.”

But the agency cautioned these numbers are just the start. The “real toll is much higher,” UN Human Rights tweeted.