Yulia Skripal delivers message to Russia in first TV appearance

23 May 2018, 17:29

Yulia Skripal has said she feels lucky to have survived being poisoned and that she would one day like to return home to Russia.

Ms Skripal, who was poisoned in March in Salisbury along with her former spy dad, said: "We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful."

Speaking from a secret location in London, where she is under police protection, she added: "As I try to come to terms with the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally, I take one day at a time and want to help care for my dad until his full recovery.

"In the longer term, I hope to return home to my country."

UK government tests identified the deadly novichok nerve agent as the substance used on the Skripals. It is believed to have been put on the handle of Mr Skripal's front door.

"The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking. My life has been turned upside down," said Ms Skripal - who was appearing on camera for the first time since the attack and had a distinctive red scar on her neck.

She declined to go into specifics, but said the treatment necessary to save her life had been "invasive, painful and depressing".

The 33-year-old Russian and her father Sergei, a former Russian double agent who now lives in the UK, were found frothing at the mouth on a bench in Salisbury on 4 March.

Ms Skripal was on one of her regular visits to the UK to see her father.

The pair were in a coma for weeks after the attempt on their lives, and Sergei was only discharged from hospital on 18 May.

It was initially feared they could have suffered irreparable damage.

The incident sparked a massive police operation in Salisbury, as well as a diplomatic row that led to dozens of Russian diplomats being expelled from countries around the world.

The Russian government strongly denies Western claims that it was behind the poisoning and has offered to help the pair.

Ms Skripal said she was "grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russia embassy but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services".

She added: "I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement, that no one speaks for me, or for my father but ourselves."

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to Ms Skripal's statement.

She told the Interfax news agency: "We want Yulia Skripal to know that there wasn't a day that went by that the Russian foreign ministry, the Russian embassy in London, did not try to arrange contact with her.

"With the main objective of ascertaining that she was not being held there against her will, that another person was not pretending to be her, and finding out about her condition and her father's condition from the source."

Ms Skripal also used her appearance in front of the camera to thank medical staff and the people who helped her and her father when they were found unresponsive on the bench.

"I am grateful to all of the wonderful, kind staff at Salisbury hospital, a place I have become all too familiar with," she said.

"I also think fondly of those who helped us on the street on the day of the attack."

:: 'Miracle' recovery: How Sergei and Yulia Skripal survived the novichok attack

Mr Skripal, 66, was arrested in 2004 by the Russian security service on suspicion of passing secrets to Britain's MI6 intelligence agency.

In 2006, he was sentenced to 13 years in jail but eventually settled in Salisbury after a 2010 spy swap that also saw 10 Russians sent back to their homeland from the US.

Detectives are believed to still be questioning him more than two months after the attack.

They are trying to piece together the Russian former double agent's life in retirement in Britain, as more details emerged of his recent activities.

They want to know more about his regular train journeys to London, his trips abroad, and his monthly meetings with his alleged former MI6 handler in a Salisbury restaurant.

It has been reported that Mr Skripal had been briefing intelligence agencies in the Czech Republic and Estonia on Russian spies and their methods, giving one lecture as recently as 2016.