President Donald Trump said Thursday it "certainly looks like" the Kremlin was behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England last week, adding that the U.S. takes the matter "very seriously."
“It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it, something that should never ever happen and we’re taking it very seriously as I think are many others,” Trump said of the attack during a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland in the Oval Office.
Trump added that he was in "deep discussions" with British Prime Minister Theresa May over how to respond to the attack on Sergei Skripal, an ex-spy, and his daughter in Salisbury last week.
The remarks came shortly after Trump's Treasury Department unveiled new sanctions on two dozen Russian entities and individuals for their meddling efforts in the 2016 presidential election.
The Trump administration ramped up its criticisms of Russia on Wednesday, with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley saying the U.S. believed Russia was "responsible" for the attack on Skripal, an action she said was worthy of retaliation from the U.N. Security Council.
Haley added U.S. officials stood “in absolutely solidarity” with Britain after the country expelled 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday, a move it announced in response to nerve agent attack.
Trump's comments on Thursday were his most direct yet on the matter. The president had initially told reporters on Tuesday that he concurred with May's initial finding that Russia was likely behind the attack.
Russia has rejected the allegations from U.S. and British leaders, calling on the U.K. to allow them to release case materials pertaining the Skripal attack so they may conduct their own investigation.
“We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted,” the Russian Embassy to the United Kingdom said in a statement Wednesday in response to the expulsion of its diplomats. “All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-U.K. relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.”
Russia on Thursday said it will expel British diplomats in retaliation.