Hospital says former Russian spy improves, no longer on 'critical' list

Andrew Matthews  PA via AP

Andrew Matthews PA via AP

Officials did not say whether the ex-spy had regained consciousness, as daughter Yulia Skripal did last week.

Ex-spy Sergei Skripal is improving rapidly and is no longer in critical condition, a British health official said Friday, a month after he and his daughter were poisoned with a rare nerve agent that triggered a diplomatic crisis between Russian Federation and the West.

Hospital medical director Dr Christine Blanshard has dismissed talk of when they could be discharged as "speculation", but with Ms Skripal now well enough to have issued her first statement since the attack, and her father said to be "improving rapidly", they could soon be well enough to assist the investigation into how they were poisoned.

"They (the British) must have something to hide".

If the Skripals came into contact with the deadly nerve agent at their doorstep, how did they have the ability to first go to a pub and a restaurant before they succumbed? "We have received a request", a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said. "This decision was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare".

"Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation", specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said following the attack. The Kremlin, for its part, has dismissed claims of its wrongdoing as fabrications aimed at "large-scale political provocation".

The US unveiled new sanctions Friday against seven of Russia's most influential oligarchs, to which Moscow promised a "tough response".

Britain also announced Friday that pets in Skripal's home - two guinea pigs and a cat - were also poisoned.

A Home Office spokesman had said her application "did not comply with the Immigration Rules", an explanation the embassy has dismissed as "disappointing" and "politically motivated". "This is about living creatures, and if a toxic chemical agent was indeed used in their house, these living creatures should have been hurt".

"When a vet was able to access the property, two guinea pigs had sadly died", a British government spokeswoman said. It had been sealed for operational safety reasons.

"They're not giving me a visa, they keep postponing it", she said Friday.

The embassy added at the time that Russian Federation had officially asked the British Foreign Ministry about the animals' fate and whether they had also been treated for poison.

The Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom described the development as "good news".

"Overall", the official added, "it is hard to avoid the impression that the animals have been disposed of as an inconvenient piece of evidence".

Toxicologists and medical forensic specialists said nerve agents are most risky in the first few days after an attack, but given that the Skripals pulled through that, it wasn't surprising that their condition was improving.

"They have a track record of using nerve agents, and they have a track record of state-sponsored assassinations", Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the USA, told Here & Now on Friday.

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