President Donald Trump has refused to condemn Russia over the poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, saying he has not seen proof.
He said the case was “tragic” but urged reporters to focus instead on China, which he said was a bigger threat to the world than Russia.
Nato and Germany say there is “proof beyond doubt” that Mr Navalny was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent.
His team says he was poisoned on the Kremlin’s orders. Russia denies this.
On Saturday, the Russian foreign ministry suggested that if a Novichok-type nerve agent had indeed been used, it did not necessarily originate in Russia.
Mr Navalny – an anti-corruption campaigner who has long been the most prominent face of opposition to President Vladimir Putin in Russia – is in a coma in a Berlin hospital having been airlifted there from Siberia, where he fell ill.
What did Trump say?
Speaking at a press event on Friday, he said he had yet to see evidence of poisoning in the case.
“So I don’t know exactly what happened. I think it’s tragic, it’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet but I will take a look,” he said.
He also stopped short of criticising Mr Putin and said Beijing posed a greater threat.
“It is interesting that everybody’s always mentioning Russia and I don’t mind you mentioning Russia but I think probably China at this point is a nation that you should be talking about much more so,” he said.
What is Nato’s position?
Tests at a military laboratory in Germany show “beyond doubt” the presence of a Novichok nerve agent, the German government and Nato say.
On Friday Nato called for Russia to disclose its Novichok nerve agent programme to international monitors. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said members were united in condemning the “horrific” attack on Mr Navalny.
Mr Stoltenberg said it required an international response, but gave no further details.
The US National Security Council has pledged to “work with allies and the international community to hold those in Russia accountable”.
What did Russia say about nerve agents?
The brief statement released by the foreign ministry on Saturday noted “multiple hostile statements made against Russia” over Mr Navalny’s illness.
“For example, in the USA, over 150 patents were officially issued to developers of technologies for their combat use,” the foreign ministry said.
Under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, Russia and the US committed themselves to eliminating all of their nerve agents and other chemical weapons. TheUS is expected to destroy its final stockpile by the end of 2023 while Russia officially completed the process in 2017
However, Western diplomats and intelligence officials allege that the Salisbury attack in 2018 exposed systematic attempts by Russia to cheat on the convention as well as deceive the international community.