Donald Trump said the US hasn’t “had any proof yet” that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been poisoned, but added that officials must look “very seriously” into the allegations.
“It’s tragic. It’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look,” Trump said at a news conference, before telling journalists they should be focusing on China, not Russia.
The German government confirmed on Wednesday that Navalny had been poisoned with military-grade nerve agent Novichok, which was used in the 2018 Salisbury attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Officials in Germany have said those responsible must be held to account.
Trump did not take the same strong stance adopted by the US State Department, which on Friday expressed grave concern about the finding that Navalny was poisoned.
In a meeting in Washington earlier on Friday, deputy secretary of state Stephen Biegun told Russian ambassador Anatoliy Antonov that Moscow’s use of this chemical weapon would be a clear violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“The deputy secretary urged Russia to cooperate fully with the international community’s investigation into this attack,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Russia has until now not opened a criminal investigation and said there is no evidence yet of a crime.
Navalny is the most popular and prominent opponent of president Vladimir Putin, and the German announcement this week that he was poisoned by a nerve agent has raised the possibility of further Western sanctions against Moscow.