The daughter of the Russian spy poisoned in Salisbury has been transferred to a secret, secure location after being released from hospital, leading to accusations from the country’s embassy she had been abducted.
Yulia Skripal was discharged more than five weeks after being left critically ill by exposure to a nerve agent in an attempted assassination blamed on the Russian state.
Doctors said she and her father, 66, had responded “exceptionally well” to treatment and he too was expected to be discharged in the future.
The pair had been widely expected to die after they were exposed to a rare nerve agent the British government says came from the Russian military’s novichok chemical weapons programme.
Theresa May has said it is “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack on Mr Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer released to the UK in a 2010 spy swap after he was jailed for spying for the British.
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The Russian embassy in London congratulated Ms Skripal on her recovery, but said it needed “urgent proof that what is being done to her is done on her own free will”.
It went on to say the “secret resettlement of Mr and Ms Skripal, barred from any contact with their family will be seen as an abduction or at least as their forced isolation”.
Russia has denied any involvement in the attack and criticised the British investigation for a lack of transparency, but the Government has said the Kremlin is trying to hide its guilt with a blizzard of conspiracy theories.
Moscow has sought consular access to Ms Skripal, but the Foreign Office has said it is up to her if she wants to meet Russian officials.
She is expected to be kept under tight security while she continues to recover. Sources said it was too early to speculate on whether she will need lifetime protection.
Any ongoing protection will fall to the police. Under the police witness protection programme, called the UK’s Protected Persons Service, she could be given a new identity and relocated.
The National Crime Agency, which runs the service, declined to comment.
Secret resettlement of Mr and Ms Skripal, barred from any contact with their family will be seen as an abduction or at least as their forced isolation.https://t.co/UuTxgZGKigpic.twitter.com/Ow3d61T3ni
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) April 10, 2018
Doctors at Salisbury district hospital gave the first indication of how they had managed to save the Skripals and a police detective, DS Nick Bailey, who was poisoned as he investigated.
Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director, said they had been given round the clock care, with doctors drawing on advice from experts around the world.
The poison had attacked its victims’ nervous systems leaving symptoms including hallucinations and sickness.
Dr Blanshard said: “Our job in treating the patients has been to stabilise them - ensuring that the patients could breathe and that blood could continue to 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.
"We also used specialised decontamination techniques to remove any residual toxins.
"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 Ms Skripal would need more treatment, but her release from hospital was a significant milestone.
Sergei Skripal, a former officer with the GRU military intelligence service, was taken off the critical list on Friday and is said to be making good progress.
Dr Blanshard said: “Although he is recovering more slowly than Yulia, we hope that he too will be able to leave hospital in due course.”