Trump’s White House blames Russia for spy attack on British soil

By Shoshana Kedem

Despite US President Donald Trump’s Twitter account remaining silent on Russia’s possible involvement in a chemical nerve agent attack in the UK, a US administration official has now publicly blamed Moscow for the attack.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders slammed Russia for its alleged role in the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.

Sanders said that the US shares the UK’s belief that Russia was behind the deadly nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia on Sunday.

She said:

The United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter, and we support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response.

Sanders accused Moscow of flouting international law, and vowed to prevent such activities happening again.

This 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 United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign ministry slammed the UK’s accusations as “crazy allegations”.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova added that so far they had no updates on how Moscow will respond to the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK, but said an announcement would be made “in the near future.”

Why it matters:

Up until now the Trump administration had avoided public denunciations of Russia for the attempted murder of the former Russian agent.

Sanders pledge to prevent such attacks in the future could also signal a US crackdown on Russian espionage rings operating in the US, after British prime minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK.

The US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has also blamed the attack on Russia, urging Moscow to “come clean” about their chemical weapons use.

Haley said at an emergency meeting of the security council:

The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.

Russia must fully cooperate with the U.K.’s investigation and come clean about its own chemical weapons program.

If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” said Haley. “They could be used here in New York or in cities of any country that sits on this council.

In a statement in the House of Commons yesterday, May announced plans to expel 23 Russian diplomats from the country under the Vienna Convention as part of a push to “dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK”.

These expulsions will account for around 40% of diplomats associated with the Russian embassy in London.

The Russian embassy decried the action was “totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted”.

Russia is expected to retaliate by expelling British diplomats from Moscow.