Salisbury nerve agent victim Yulia Skripal reveals she is recovering
Russia has appealed for the UK to issue visas for relatives to visit Miss Skripal and her father Sergei in hospital.
Yulia Skripal has said her strength is “growing daily” after the nerve agent attack which left her and her father in intensive care.
Her first public comments since the March 4 attack were released shortly after Russian TV reported that she had contacted a relative in Moscow to say she and Sergei Skripal were recovering and that she would soon be discharged from hospital.
Russia has appealed for the UK to issue visas for relatives to visit the Skripals in hospital in Salisbury, where they are being treated for exposure to nerve agent Novichok.
Moscow has called a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the incident, with foreign minister Sergey Lavrov saying the UK has “legitimate questions” to answer about what happened.
But security minister Ben Wallace said it was “beyond reasonable doubt” that Russia was to blame for the attack, as the UK sought to maintain diplomatic pressure over the incident.
Ms Skripal’s statement was released as, at a 90-minute press conference at the Russian embassy in London, ambassador Alexander Yakovenko repeated Moscow’s denial of responsibility for the attack.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s claim that Russia maintained a stockpile of Novichok “likely for assassination” was “untrue… not supported by any evidence … unacceptable”, he said.
Mr Yakovenko denied that Russia had ever produced the nerve agent and said there were “a lot of suspicions” in relation to a string of deaths of Russian citizens in the UK over the past decade.
In her first statement since coming out of a coma, Yulia Skripal, 33, said: “I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily. I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received.”
In the statement released by the Metropolitan Police, she thanked healthcare workers at Salisbury District Hospital as well as “the people of Salisbury that came to my aid when my father and I were incapacitated”.
And she said: “I am sure you appreciate that the entire episode is somewhat disorientating, and I hope that you’ll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence.”
Earlier, Russian media reported that Ms Skripal had told her cousin Viktoria that her father Sergei was “alright”, adding: “Everyone is recovering, everyone survived… No irreparable harm was done. That’s all, I will soon be discharged from the hospital.”
Mr Yakovenko said that Yulia’s sister had been waiting for two days for a visa to come to Britain to visit her in hospital.
“We believe this is a humanitarian case and we could expect that the visa would be issued as fast as possible,” he said. “Everything is in the hands of the British Government.”
On Wednesday, Russia lost a vote at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague on its demand for its experts to be involved in testing samples of the substance used in the Salisbury attack.
But Mr Yakovenko said the Western position had not won the support of most countries, with six of the 41 members backing Russia, 15 voting against – including the UK, US and several EU and Nato states – 17 abstaining, two absent and one not entitled to vote.
He said: “The majority of the world community is not supporting the Western approach.”
Mr Yakovenko said Russia would accept the findings of the OPCW investigation but wants to know who the experts are who are carrying
out the testing.
He said: “Of course we will accept the results but these results should be confirmed by the international community. So, we want to see who were the experts.
“Last time the team was headed by the British in Syria… and that was a real problem for us.”
Mr Yakovenko said Russia had suspicions about a string of deaths of its nationals in the UK over the past decade, including businessman Nikolai Glushkov, whose body was discovered in his south London home last month.
“We have a lot of suspicions about Britain,” said the ambassador. “If we take the last 10 years, so many Russian citizens died here in the UK under very strange circumstances…
“My question is ‘Why is it happening here?’”
Russian officials speaking after Wednesday’s OPCW meeting said they presented a “common sense” case and pointed to the “lies by Tony Blair” over Iraq as they criticised the intelligence about the attack.
But Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that comparisons to the flawed intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were not valid.
“There’s no missing nerve agent that no-one can find – it was used in Salisbury, we had three people seriously ill, two obviously remain in hospital in critical condition, and there is no doubt that we have found nerve agent,” he said.
“That nerve agent has been identified to being manufactured we believe in Russia and we believe that the nerve agent, the Novichok type of nerve agent, is only capable of being produced by a nation state, and then we add that to intelligence we hold, we add that to some of the police investigation that’s going on right now, and we can say that roads lead to Russia, that we are beyond reasonable doubt of the view that the Russian state is behind this.”