U.S. President Donald Trump could be on the verge of expelling at least 20 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, U.S. and international media are reporting.
CNN and the Reuters news agency on March 25 said the decision could come as soon as March 26 and would likely depend on any moves by European allies in reaction to the nerve-agent attack in the British city of Salisbury.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 on a bench in the city center and taken to a hospital, where they remain in critical condition.
British officials said it was “highly likely” Moscow was behind the attack, a view also expressed by the European Union.
London expelled 23 Russian diplomats in reaction to the poisoning. Moscow denied involvement and responded by ordering 23 British diplomats out of Russia.
The EU said it was considering its actions, with expulsions expected from European capitals.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Washington was considering its options but did not provide details.
"The United States stands firmly with the United Kingdom in condemning Russia’s outrageous action. The president is always considering options to hold Russia accountable in response to its malign activities. We have no announcements at this time," he said.
News agencies on March 20 quoted State Department sources as saying Trump’s National Security Council had given the president a range of measures to take against Russia. The reports said Moscow would be expected to retaliate in a similar manner should expulsions take place.
Any U.S. moves could conflict with Trump’s stated desire to improve ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump last week in a phone call congratulated Putin on his reelection victory -- a vote considered by Western critics to be tainted by irregularities-- and did not mention the poisoning attack.