Daughter of Sergei Skripal said to be improving rapidly while former spy remains critical after nerve agent poisoning
29 March 2018 |Owen Bowcott | The Guardian
“The condition of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury along with her father, is improving rapidly, doctors have said.
Salisbury NHS foundation trust said on Thursday the 33-year-old was no longer in a critical condition, describing her medical state as stable.
Christine Blanshard, the medical director for Salisbury district hospital, said: “I’m pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal. She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day.
“I want to take this opportunity to once again thank the staff of Salisbury district hospital for delivering such high-quality care to these patients over the last few weeks. I am very proud both of our frontline staff and all those who support them.”
Her father’s condition was described by the hospital as still critical but stable. Sergei Skripal, 66, a former Russian double agent, is believed to have been the main target of the attack.
The update came as Russia said it was taking tit-for-tat measures against all the nations that have expelled Russian diplomats over attack.
In a separate development, Scotland Yard said police had placed a cordon around a children’s play area near Sergei Skripal’s home as a precautionary measure.
“Officers investigating the attempted murders of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal are continuing to focus their enquiries around the Skripals’ home address,” a police statement revealed.
“As a precautionary measure, they have this afternoon placed a cordon around a children’s play area at Montgomery Gardens, near the Skripals’ home.”
Deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon said: “I would like to reassure residents that we have placed the cordons around the park, and officers will be searching it, as a precautionary measure. I would like to reiterate Public Health England’s advice that the risk to the public is low.”
Detectives said they believed the pair were poisoned with the nerve agent novichok, which had been smeared on Sergei Skripal’s front door.
At least 130 people could have been exposed to the chemical weapon in the aftermath of the poisoning, responsibility for which the UK government believes lies with the Russian state.
Recent interviews with Sergei Skripal’s niece in Russia had suggested there was little chance of either of them recovering.
Viktoria Skripal told the BBC: “Out of 99% I have maybe 1% of hope. Whatever it was has given them a very small chance of survival. But they’re going to be invalids for the rest of their lives.”
She also revealed that Skripal’s mother had not been told of the incident, adding: “The first priority was to protect our granny so that she wouldn’t hear or find out anything.”
About 250 counter-terrorism detectives continue to work around the clock on the investigation, which is expected to continue for months.
Officers are examining more than 5,000 hours of CCTV footage and 1,350 exhibits that have been seized, while 500 witnesses have been identified.
The London Road cemetery, where Skripal’s wife and son are buried, the Maltings shopping centre and the Ashley Wood compound have been handed back into the control of Wiltshire police.
Britain has accused Russia of being behind the poisoning – allegations fiercely denied by Moscow.
At least 26 countries have expelled Russian diplomats expelling diplomats suspected of being spies. The latest country to join in the coordinated action was Georgia, which said it “condemns the use of chemical weapons on the territory of the United Kingdom”.
Novichuk works by attacking the nervous system, preventing chemical messages being transmitted around the body. It causes the heart to slow and airways to become constricted.
Wiltshire police detective Sgt Nick Bailey, who was also exposed to the nerve agent, was discharged from the hospital last week.