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Trump says 'it looks like the Russians were behind Salisbury poisoning and that is very sad'

The President joins the UK, Germany, and France in blaming Russia for the incident 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 15 March 2018 16:21 GMT
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Donald Trump
Donald Trump (PA)

US President Donald Trump said it "certainly looks like the Russians were behind" the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

"That is very sad," Mr Trump said about the incident, adding that it was "something that should never, ever happen and we're taking it very seriously".

The UK, Germany, France, and now the US have jointly called on Russia to explain the military-grade novichok nerve toxin attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. The pair remains in critical condition.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to blame the Russians for the incident which has left the town of Salisbury a "ghost town" as The Independent previously reported over concerns about exposure to remains of the nerve agent continue.

She called it a "brazen" act, expelled 23 Russian diplomats, and cut high-level contact with Moscow for the attack on UK soil.

“We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted,” the Russian Embassy to the UK said in a statement, adding that “all the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.”

Russia is, in turn, expelling British diplomats from posts in Russia.

Theresa May: 'We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act'

Even recently-ousted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fast to call it “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia. He had called President Vladimir Putin's country "an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens".

Mr Tillerson even went as far as saying the poisoning “certainly will trigger a response" from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). "I'll leave it at that," he said.

However, Mr Trump's initial comments were more cautious. He said on Tuesday that "as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be".

It was not until after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during a Security Council meeting that the US "stands in absolute solidarity" with the UK, that the White House issued a statement echoing the sentiment.

She said Russia must "account for its actions" in line with her strong comments against Russia in the past. Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, suggested the UK might have been responsible for the attack in an attempt to smear Russia. He told the Security Council that "no scientific research or development work under the title Novichok were carried out" in his country.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the late Wednesday evening statement that "Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack".

The statement, which came on the heels of US sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US election, said: "the latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes. The US is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again".

The investigation by the FBI and Congress into whether campaign aides of Mr Trump's colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election continues as well.

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