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Wednesday 23 January 2019

Resettlement of Skripals will be abduction, claims Russia

Yulia Skripal has left hospital in Salisbury and is believed to have been taken to a safe house
Yulia Skripal has left hospital in Salisbury and is believed to have been taken to a safe house

Sarah Young and Peter Nicholls

The Russian Embassy in London said it would consider any secret resettlement of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the former Russian double agent and his daughter who were poisoned last month, as an abduction of its citizens.

If the pair were secretly resettled, the opportunity to hear their version of events would be lost, the embassy said.

"The world, while having no opportunity to interact with them, will have every reason to see this as an abduction of the two Russian nationals or at least as their isolation," the website said.

Ms Skripal (33) has left hospital more than five weeks after she and her father, a former Russian spy, were poisoned with a nerve agent in an attack that has sparked one of the biggest crises in the West's relations with the Kremlin since the Cold War. She and her father (66), a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury on March 4.

Britain accused Russia of being behind the nerve agent attack and Western governments including the United States expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats.

Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning and retaliated in kind.

The Skripals were in a critical condition for weeks and doctors at one point feared that even if they survived they might have suffered brain damage. But the Skripals' health has begun to improve rapidly.

Ms Skripal has been discharged from Salisbury District Hospital, Christine Blanshard, medical director of the hospital, said yesterday and her father could be discharged in due course.

"We have now discharged Yulia," Dr Blanshard said.

"This is not the end of her treatment, but marks a significant milestone. Her father has also made good progress.

"Although he is recovering more slowly than Yulia, we hope that he too will be able to leave hospital in due course."

Ms Skripal is understood to have been taken to a secure location, while the 'Sunday Times' reported Britain was considering giving the Skripals new identities and a fresh life in the United States to protect them from further attacks.

Dr Blanshard, a doctor with 25 years' experience, said nerve agents work by attaching themselves to particular enzymes in the body that then stop the nerves from functioning. She said this had resulted in sickness and hallucinations.

Giving the first details about the Skripals' medical treatment, she said doctors had first sought to stabilise them to ensure they could breathe and blood could circulate.

"We then needed to use a variety of different drugs to support the patients, until they could create more enzymes to replace those affected by the poisoning," Dr Blanshard said.

"We also used specialised decontamination techniques to remove any residual toxins."

She did not say when Ms Skripal had been discharged.

Both Britain and Russia congratulated her on her recovery.

"We congratulate Yulia Skripal on her recovery," the Russian embassy in London said, adding it had not been granted consular access to her.

Mr Skripal, who was recruited by Britain's MI6, was arrested for treason in Moscow in 2004.

He ended up in Britain after being swapped in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the United States.

Since emerging from the world of high espionage and betrayal, Mr Skripal had kept out of the spotlight until he was poisoned. He has British citizenship.

Irish Independent

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