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Top U.S. Commander Sent Back to Europe Over Ukraine Tensions

The head of the U.S. military's European Command was sent back to Europe prematurely from Washington amid growing tensions in the Ukraine, a Pentagon official said Sunday.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, who is also NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, was slated to give his annual testimony before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided Friday to send him back to Europe, a Pentagon spokesman told NBC News.

Hagel considered the decision a “prudent” one since Russian leadership has been cryptic about their intentions of military movements across the Ukrainian border, the spokesman said.

The announcement came as Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in Paris to discuss ways to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin also discussed Russia's intentions during a phone call on Friday. Putin's comments left the U.S. with little reassurance that Russia does not plan to move further into Ukraine.

Breedlove arrived in Stuttgart, Germany on Saturday night and will meet with NATO foreign ministers at the Foreign Ministers conference in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Pentagon spokesman said.

— Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube

Image: 170th NATO Chiefs of Defence meeting
U.S. General Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), attends a news conference at the end of the 170th NATO Chiefs of Defense meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Jan. 23, 2014. The meeting focused on the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) on how to further develop practical cooperation. OLIVIER HOSLET / EPA, file