Trump says US has to look seriously into suspected poisoning of Putin critic Alexei Navalny

A December 2019 photo shows Navalny standing in a hallway of a business centre housing his Anti-Corruption Foundation in Moscow. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump said the United States must look "very seriously" into the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but that his administration had not yet seen any proof.

"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.

Trump did not take as strong a stand as the State Department, which earlier 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.

Germany, where Navalny is in a hospital, has said the Russian opposition figure was poisoned with a Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent and wants the perpetrators held to account.

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.

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