White House backs UK decision to expel diplomats, as Russia threaten retaliation

Moscow continues to deny any involvement in the poisoning of Russian sky Sergei Skripal

The White House says it "stands in solidarity" with "its closest ally" the UK and supports its decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats, yet Russia threaten retaliation and show contempt. 

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the Russian diplomats would be expelled after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian- made nerve agent was used on a former spy in the UK.

Moscow continues to deny any involvement in the attack. May said the Kremlin had responded with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance,” to the 24-hour deadline the government set on Monday.

“Their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events,” May told MPs. She said: “There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state was responsible for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter.”

It was “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”, May said.

US President Donald Trump's spokeswoman also accused Russia of undermining the security of countries worldwide.

In the statement, Trump's press secretary Sarah Sanders said the US wanted to ensure "this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again".

She described the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain as "a just response".

"This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes," she said.

The White House statement echoed earlier comments made by the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said the US would “always be there” for the UK.

 In response, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would co-operate in the case if it received a formal request for clarification from the UK under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which sets a 10-day time limit for a response.

But Moscow refused to meet the UK's Tuesday evening deadline to explain the use of the nerve agent, prompting May to announce the diplomats' expulsion and other measures intended to send a "clear message" to Russia.

Skripal remains in a critical condition after the incident in Salisbury last week.

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