- The UK government has accused Russia of being behind a nerve agent attack on a former double agent in Salisbury, England.
- But the White House refused to endorse this view in a press conference on Monday.
- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the US government condemns the attack, but did not mention Russia by name.
The White House has declined to endorse the UK government’s assessment that Russia was behind the recent attempted assassination of a former double agent in Salisbury, England.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the Russian government was behind the attack that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia critically ill, calling it “an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.”
But when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked repeatedly about the incident at a press conference in Washington DC later on Monday, she would not say whether the American government agreed with this attribution, and did not mention Russia by name.
“The use of a highly lethal nerve agent against UK citizens on UK soil is an outrage,” Sanders said in response to a question about the attack and Russia’s role. “The attack was reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible. We offer the fullest condemnation.”
The journalist them pressed her, asking if this meant the US was not pointing the finger at Russia.
“Right now, we are standing with our UK ally,” Sanders said. “I think they’re still working through even some of the details of that, and we’re going to continue to work with the UK.”
May’s remarks accusing Russia came hours prior to the White House press conference.
Sanders was then asked a third time about the UK government’s assessment, and said only: “We stand with our ally and we certainly fully support them, and are ready if we can be of any assistance to them.”
The UK government has said it has identified the nerve agent used on the Skripals on March 4 as being from the Novichok family. Novichok nerve agents were developed by Russia during the Cold War, and are highly toxic – as much as 10 times more deadly than the lethal XV nerve agent.
There are two possibilities, May said – Either the attack was orchestrated by the Russian government, or “the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has been less reticent about apportioning blame, however. He said on Monday that the poisoning “clearly came from Russia,” AP reported, and that it “will trigger a response.”
Here’s a video of Sanders being asked about the attack on the Skripals:
Sanders refuses to condemnRussia for attempted murder and poisoning of a former British spywith a nerve agent in the U.K. pic.twitter.com/f5j0MhuZxo
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 12, 2018