Trump: 'highly likely that Russia was responsible' over ex-spy attack

Washington: US President Donald Trump has backed British Prime Minister Theresa May's demand that Russia must provide "unambiguous answers" over last week's poisoning of an ex- Russian spy and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

Trump's pledge came as America's stance was plunged into doubt when Rex Tillerson was sacked as secretary of state after publicly blaming Russia.

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Trump, May to discuss UK nerve gas attack

US President Donald Trump plans talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, that struck down a former Russian double agent.

In a phone call with May, the US President offered Britain "any assistance" needed in its investigation, according to the White House.

Both leaders said there should be "consequences" for whoever attacked Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil. The pair also agreed it amounted to a "flagrant violation of international norms" - a hint of more serious diplomatic action to come.

A White House source told The Telegraph in London the offer of investigative help was the first in a series of US moves expected in the coming weeks.

May's office says Trump and the British leader spoke by phone on Tuesday afternoon and quoted Trump as being "with the UK all the way" in reiterating Britain's view that "it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal".


May has demanded that Moscow account for how a Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed in Salisbury and vowed to set out measures Britain will adopt if no credible response is received by the end of Tuesday.

But Russia said it would refuse to meet May's midnight deadline unless Britain agreed to send Moscow samples of the nerve agent used to poison Skripal.

The country's embassy in Britain fired off a salvo of seven tweets in which it said Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention for a joint investigation and warned the threat of sanctions would "meet with a response".

Britain's ambassador to Russia was also summoned by Moscow and told by first deputy foreign minister Vladimir Titov that the Kremlin "strongly protested" the accusations, the embassy said.

The White House said in a statement on Tuesday: "President Trump agreed with Prime Minister May that the government of the Russian Federation must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom.

"The two leaders agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms."

Earlier, speaking to reporters, Trump said: "It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.

"As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be."

Tillerson had said on Monday that Russia was "clearly" linked to the attack, going further than the White House. On Tuesday morning, it was announced he had been fired.

Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, spoke to Tillerson for 20 minutes about the poisoning on Monday evening and was not told of his impending departure, adding to the confusion.

The Daily Telegraph (London), Reuters