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, the BBC reported on Saturday.
Nato and Germany say there is “proof beyond doubt” that Navalny was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent.
His team said 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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.