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Macron backs UK over Russian role in Skripal poisoning

Adrian Dennis, AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron (R) looks on as Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, speaks at an event at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, on January 18, 2018.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday backed Britain’s charge that Russia was responsible for the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy, saying there was “no other plausible explanation”.

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“Since the start of the week, Britain has kept France closely informed of the evidence gathered by British investigators and of elements demonstrating Russian responsibility in the attack.

“France shares Britain’s assessment that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with his ally,” Macron’s office said after a Thursday morning call between the French leader and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Macron and May condemned “all use of chemical weapons” and agreed “on the importance of European and transatlantic unity” in response to the attack, the French presidency added in a statement.

Later, Macron told reporters during a visit to central France that his country would take action over the “unacceptable attack”. “I will announce the measures that we are going to take in the coming days,” he said. The French president also said he would discuss the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due in Paris on Friday.

A British diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said London was “grateful for French solidarity at this time”.

“As President Macron said this morning, the unity of our European and transatlantic alliance is essential as we respond to Russian behaviour.”

On Wednesday, May expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury, as the standoff with Moscow – which denies responsibility – escalated.

Britain also suspended high-level contacts, including for the football World Cup, which Russia is due to host in June and July.

The US rowed in behind Britain, saying it believed Russia was “responsible”.

Merkel, for her part, stopped short of accusing Moscow but said it would be a “very serious matter” if it were found to be involved.

France had on Wednesday appeared reticent to accuse Russia directly, with government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux saying Paris was waiting for the allegations “to be fully proven” before taking a stance.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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