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Trump: Russia likely poisoned ex-spy, ‘based on all the evidence’

US President Donald Trump suggested on Tuesday that he believes the British government’s theory that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in England earlier this month.

“It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all the evidence they have,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
Trump added: “As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.”

Trump also said he would speak to UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday about the incident.

May said Monday that it was “highly likely” Russia was to blame for the attack, and demanded an explanation from Moscow by midnight Tuesday for how a “military-grade” nerve agent was used in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

UK authorities believe the pair were targeted with Novichok, a nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s. The Skripals were found slumped on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, and remain in critical condition.

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed accusations of Russian involvement as “nonsense,” state-run Tass reported. His office said Moscow would not respond to London’s ultimatum without receiving a sample of the substance.

Trump’s remarks to reporters Tuesday came on the heels of the news that he had fired US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

On Monday, Tillerson issued a harsh condemnation of Russia over the poisoning of Skripal. Tillerson’s remarks went further than the White House’s response earlier in the day, which had stopped short of pinning blame for the attack on Moscow.

Police and members of the armed forces continue to investigate the suspected nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal in Wiltshire, England.
Police and members of the armed forces continue to investigate the suspected nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal in Wiltshire, England.

Moscow: Threats of sanctions ‘will not remain unanswered’
May said Monday that the Russian ambassador had been summoned to the UK Foreign Office to explain whether the attack was “a direct action by the Russian state,” or the result of the Russian government “losing control” of its stock nerve agents.

Exactly how Britain might respond to evidence that implicated Moscow in the attack remains unclear. Possible options might include the expulsion of Russian diplomats and UK-based pro-Kremlin oligarchs, financial restrictions on figures linked to the Kremlin, and diplomatic efforts involving EU and US allies.
On Tuesday, Lavrov accused the UK of denying Russia access to the case materials, including samples of the substance used.

“We issued a note requesting an access to the substance in order for our experts to analyze it in accordance with the convention,” Lavrov said, referring to the Chemical Weapons Convention. “And in the same note we requested access to all facts associated with the investigation, taking into consideration that Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen.

“In response to this absolutely lawful and logical request that are underlined by the convention, we received an unclear response, which can be summarized that these lawful requests were denied.”

The UK Foreign Office said it could not confirm whether such a request had been submitted.
In a statement Tuesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow “will not respond to London’s ultimatum until the Russian side is provided with samples of a chemical substance referred to by the British investigation.”

It continued by saying “any threats of taking ‘sanctions’ measures against the Russian Federation will not remain unanswered. This must be understood by the British side.”


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