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Nikki Haley calls poisoning of former spy 'Russia's crime' as she backs Britain at UN

Theresa May has expelled 23 Russian diplomats and blamed Moscow for the nerve agent attack

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 14 March 2018 21:56 GMT
Nikki Haley: Russia 'responsible' for nerve agent 'crime' on former Russian spy

The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has accused Russia of a “crime” worthy of action by the UN Security Council, as she backed Britain’s attempts to punish Moscow for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury.

The Trump administration was relatively quiet on the Russia issue for much of Wednesday after Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats and blamed Moscow for this month’s nerve agent attack on the former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter.

But Ms Haley later came out swinging, telling a Security Council meeting that the US believes “Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent”.

“Alone, Russia’s crime is worthy of this council’s action, but this is not an isolated incident,” Ms Haley said. “ The assassination attempt in Salisbury is part of an alarming increase in the use of chemical weapons”.

She added that American officials “take no pleasure in constantly criticising Russia,” but “it must account for its actions”.

The White House said it “certainly appears” that Russia is responsible for the attempted murder of an ex-spy based on all the evidence that Britain has available.

“The president did tell the prime minister on the phone yesterday the United States does stand 100 per cent with our ally UK on this matter,” White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters.

He said he does not know of any independent US assessment of the evidence, according to the White House pool report.

Mr Shah was also asked why Donald Trump has not responded to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the same way that Ms May has responded to the poison attack.

The spokesman said the US’s National Security Strategy lays out ways to counteract Russian cyberthreats and election meddling and noted that the National Security Council has had a meeting on the subject.

“This president is taking this matter very seriously,” Mr Shah. “There will be more things that we can make public about his actions but we take the integrity of our elections extremely seriously and are treating it with the utmost forethought. And frankly we don’t want to see the mistakes and the failure to act from the last administration plague our elections in 2018.”

Like it has denied interfering in the US election, the Kremlin has denied involvement in the UK nerve agent attack.

Mr Shah’s statements are the furthest the White House has gone in placing responsibility on Russia for the attack. In its initial response, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stopped short of pinning blame on Moscow.

Republican Senator John McCain tweeted that the US must stand with the UK and “ensure Russian authorities pay a price for their outrageous crimes”.

A day before he was fired, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday expressed “full confidence” in the UK’s assessment that Russia was likely responsible the poisoning.

“Mr Tillerson did indeed give robust comments after this incident took place, and I am sure we will be working with his replacement to ensure that America is one of those allies who stand alongside us,” said UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

She said that Britain has made the seriousness of the attempted murder of a former spy clear to US officials.

“We are leaving our American colleagues in no doubt about the seriousness of this issue,” Ms May told Parliament.

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