Washington, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said on Friday that the United States had not yet seen any proof about the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny but vowed that his administration would look at it “very seriously” if that was the case.
Trump declined to condemn Russia even as White House officials and world leaders have blamed Moscow over Navalny, who is in a German hospital undergoing treatment for suspected nerve agent poisoning.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I think it is tragic. It is terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet, but I will take a look,” the president told reporters at the White House in his first comments on the Navalny case.
“I think we have to look at it very seriously if that is the case, and I think we will. There has nobody been tougher on Russia than I have.”
Trump’s guarded comments on the issue are in contrast with other officials from his administration who have condemned the incident more forcefully.
National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot earlier this week said the US was “deeply troubled by the results” of the German military’s toxicology lab that found traces of the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the skin, blood, and urine samples of Navalny.
“Alexei Navalny’s poisoning is completely reprehensible. Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past,” Ullyot said.
“We will work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable, wherever the evidence leads, and restrict funds for their malign activities.”
Even Trump’s spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany earlier this week condemned Navalny’s poisoning.
“Russia has used chemical nerve agents in the past, and we’re working with our allies in the international community to hold those in Russia accountable,” McEnany said.
The US Undersecretary of State, Stephen Biegun, summoned the Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoli Antónov, on Friday to express his “grave concern” about Germany’s conclusions.
Biegun warned him that the use of the nerve agent would violate the commitments of Russia under the Chemical Weapons Convention, according to the State Department.
Even world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have condemned the alleged poisoning, seeking answers from the Russian government after NATO in-house lab test confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
Asked if he doubted the conclusions of the German government and the lab, Trump said that was not the case.
“No, I don’t. I don’t. I hear Germany has made it definitive, or almost definitive, but we have not seen it ourselves, no.”
He said he would be receiving a lot of documents over the next few days and “we’ll take a look at the numbers and the documents.”
He said he would “certainly be okay” with if Germany wanted to do something about that and “want to take action.”
Berlin informed NATO allies, which includes the United States, on Friday of the lab findings.
Navalny is in a Berlin hospital where he was admitted after taking ill sick from suspected poisoning on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk last month.
Trump told reporters that they should be more focused on China than Russia.