President Donald Trump and Theresa May of Britain say that Russian officials “must provide unambiguous answers” about the attempted murder of a former spy in southern England, according to a White House readout of a call between the two leaders released on Tuesday.
The White House said that Trump expressed his “solidarity” with May during a call on Tuesday and that he vowed “to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation” of the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter that took place in Salisbury last week.
The two leaders, the White House added, “agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms,” though they did not directly call for Russia to face immediate punishment.
May on Monday called it “highly likely” that the Kremlin was behind the attempted murder of a former Russian double agent.
Russian officials have called for British officials to give them access to case materials so they can conduct their own analysis. The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday in a statement that they “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.”
Trump said earlier on Tuesday that he would take Britain’s finding that Russia government officials were probably behind the nerve agent attack “as fact.”
“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.”
Late on Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the attack on Skripal “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia, the sharpest remarks yet from a Trump administration official yet on the matter. Trump announced on Tuesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson to head up the State Department.
Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition.