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Yulia Skripal speaks for first time since poisoning

David Martin with Reuters
May 24, 2018

Yulia Skripal has spoken for the first time since she and her father were poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury in March. Skripal said her recovery had been "slow and painful" and she one day hoped to return to Russia.

Großbritannien London Julia Skripal, Tochter von Sergej Skripal
Image: Reuters/D. Martinez

Yulia Skripal: 'We are so lucky to have both survived'

Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with her ex-spy father Sergei by a nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury, said in a video statement broadcast on Wednesday that the two of them were lucky to still be alive.

Making her first appearance since the poisoning, the 33-year-old told the Reuters news agency that she would eventually like to return to her native Russia, but must first continue her recovery.

Read more: Skripal poisoning: Germany got Novichok chemical sample from Russia in 1990s

What did Yulia Skripal say?

Skripal spoke in Russian from an undisclosed location in the UK. She remains under British police protection. Wearing a light blue skirt and sporting a visible scar on her throat, Skripal said:

  • She hoped to return to Russia "in the longer term" but needed to get better first. "My recovery and that of my father remain my priority," she said.
  • That she would not entertain who was behind the attack, saying only that that "no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves."
  • She and her father were very lucky to survive the "assassination attempt," adding that "the fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking."
  • That she was grateful to the Russian embassy for offering its help, but she "was not ready" accept their assistance at this stage.
  • The treatment was "invasive and deeply depressing." She was discharged from hospital on April 9, but her treatment remains ongoing.

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of making misleading Russia Novichok claim in DW interview

Russia convinced Skripals held against their will

Russia's ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko, said he was happy to see that Yulia Skripal was in "good health," but went on to suggest that she may be held in Britain against her wishes.

"The United Kingdom has the obligation to give us an opportunity to speak to Yulia directly to make sure that she is not being held against her will and is not making statements under duress," the Russian embassy said. "So far we have grounds to suspect the opposite."

The statement went on to suggest that Skripal's statement appeared to have been "initially written by a native English-speaker."

Those fears were later echoed by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who also said he believed Skripal was speaking under duress. When asked to comment on the video statement, Peskov simply said "we have not seen her or heard from her."

Read more: UK says attack on ex-Russian spy Skripal undercuts chemical weapons ban

UK-Russia relations at all-time low: The British government maintains that Russia was responsible for the nerve agent attack, citing evidence that a Soviet-designed agent known as Novichok was used. Russia has denied any involvement, questioning why it would seek to poison a turncoat who had been pardoned and went on to be part of a Kremlin-approved spy-swap with the West in 2010. The spat led to the biggest tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Read more: Salisbury struggles with Skripal poisoning infamy as tourists stay away

Who is Sergei Skripal? The 66-year-old worked as double agent for Britain's MI6 intelligence agency before he was arrested by Russian security officials in 2004 on suspicion of treason. Six years later, he was part of a Cold War-style spy swap between Russia and the West. He had been living in Salisbury ever since.

Was Russia behind the poisoning? The British government remains adamant, citing the use of Novichok in the attack. However, both UK government scientists and the international chemical weapons watchdog have so far been unable to determine where the nerve agent was produced.

Will we hear from Sergei Skripal? While he is recovering, the former spy was only discharged from hospital last week, more than a month after his daughter. This suggests that the poison had a stronger effect on him. It could still be sometime before he comes forward to make a statement.

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