Russia issued a mocking reaction to the surprise sacking of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State , with a foreign ministry spokeswoman asking if the finger of blame was already being pointed at Moscow .

“ Have they started blaming Russia yet for the Washington staff changes ?” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a text message sent to AFP.

She did not immediately make any additional comments .

Tillerson on Tuesday agreed that Russia “ was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack ” on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England, speaking on a flight back from Africa .

“ We agree that those responsible – – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – – must face appropriately serious consequences , ” he added .

The US has accused Russia of actively interfering in the 2016 presidential election , stealing Democratic party communications and pushing out disinformation through social media , which Moscow denies .

Tillerson before being appointed as secretary of state worked closely with Russia as head of US oil giant ExxonMobil, which included meeting regularly with President Vladimir Putin.

Despite Donald Trump’ s initial promises of improved ties , relations between the countries have deteriorated sharply under his administration.

Putin once again rejected accusations of election meddling in an interview with NBC released Friday.

“ Why have you decided the Russian authorities, myself included , gave anybody permission to do this ?” Putin asked in the interview .

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