herald

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Russia calls for access after ex-spy's daughter is released from hospital

Yulia Skripal was targeted in a chemical attack on March 4. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Yulia Skripal was targeted in a chemical attack on March 4. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Yulia Skripal, who was targeted along with her father in a nerve agent attack in England, has been discharged from the hospital.

"This is not the end of her treatment but marks a significant milestone," said Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director of Salisbury District Hospital.

She said she would not provide details about Ms Skripal's condition for reasons of privacy.

The 33-year-old daughter of ex-spy Sergei Skripal (66) has been taken to a secure location.

Dr Blanshard said Sergei Skripal, the apparent target of the attack, is recovering more slowly than his daughter but continues to improve.

"Both patients have responded exceptionally well to the treatment we've been providing. But, equally, both patients are at different stages in their recovery," she said.

The doctor said no date has been set for the elder Skripal's release from hospital.

The two were poisoned on March 4, and spent weeks in critical condition, in an attack that has led to a prolonged confrontation between Russia and Britain, and revived Cold War tensions.

The British government, which accuses Russia of carrying out the attack, is likely to keep details about Ms Skripal's location secret, given the sensitivity of the case.

If she is well enough, she is likely to be extensively questioned by British security officials and police about her recollection of events leading up to her poisoning.

The Russian embassy congratulated Ms Skripal on her release in a tweet but said pointedly that Russia needs "urgent proof" that "what is being done to her is done on her own free will".

Recover

Russia says it had no role in the attack and has demanded consular access to Ms Skripal, who has Russian nationality.

It is not clear where the Skripals will live if they recover enough to resume normal activities. British officials may feel Sergei Skripal would not be safe to live in the open any longer.

Bob Ayers, a security analyst who used to work with the CIA, said it is possible Sergei and Yulia Skripal would be given new identities in Britain or the US under a scheme like those used to protect witnesses in high-profile criminal trials.

They could also choose to live in the open under the assumption that Russia would not attack a second time, he said.

"They may not want to go into hiding," Ayers said.

"Now that the assassination attempt has been uncovered, the odds are pretty good the Russians won't take another run at them. They'll be under surveillance, the cops will put cameras up, they'll keep good track of the Skripals."

He said he would not expect Yulia Skripal to return to Russia despite her Russian nationality.

British police say the lethal nerve agent Novichok was placed on the door handle of Sergei Skripal's house.

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