Russian double agent Sergei Skripal has survived an assassination attempt by poisoning and is “improving rapidly,” according to the hospital treating him. Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, is also said to be on her way to recovery after she, too, was poisoned.
Skripal and his daughter have been hospitalized for about a month after they were found slumped on a bench in a catatonic state in the English town of Salisbury in early March. The nerve agent used to poison them is called novichok. A Russian scientist who helped develop the toxin told VICE News that it is "at least 10 times stronger than any known toxic substance in the world” and that he believed Vladimir Putin likely ordered the attack.
Yulia released a statement Thursday saying that her strength was improving and asked for her family’s privacy as she and her father recover.
Sergei Skripal, 66, was a high-ranking official until 1999 in GRU, Russia's elite military intelligence agency. Moscow convicted him of high treason in 2006 after he offered the identities of Russian agents in Europe to MI6, Britain’s intelligence agency. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was pardoned in 2010 and sent to the U.K. as one half of a prisoner swap with the Kremlin.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has furiously condemned the attack. May has accused Russia of “unlawful use of force,” characterizing the attack as something akin to an act of war on British soil. European Union leaders have rallied behind May in denouncing the attack and pointing the finger at Russia. President Donald Trump has reportedly told May that he is with the U.K. “all the way,” though he invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House amid the controversy.
The U.S. slapped additional sanctions on 38 individuals and companies Friday on top of the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats in response to the alleged poison attack on U.K. soil.
Russia’s embassy in the U.K., meanwhile, seems more concerned about the welfare of Skripal’s pets. The embassy released a tongue-in-cheek statement inquiring into the fate of Skripal’s two cats and guinea pigs.
The guinea pigs and at least one of the cats are said to be dead. Detectives say that Skripal and his daughter first came into contact with the nerve agent at their home, where the poison was heavily concentrated. The animals likely came into contact with the poison there too.
Cover image: Police officers in protective suits and masks work near the scene where former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia were discovered after being attacked with a nerve-agent on March 16, 2018 in Salisbury, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)