The daughter of a former Russian spy says she wants to return home, despite having survived an attempted assassination blamed on agents from the country.
Yulia Skripal said she regained consciousness from 20 days in a coma to learn that both she and her father Sergei had been stricken with a nerve agent. The UK government blames Russia for the attack, which plunged relations between the two countries to their lowest ebb in years.
"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 till his full recovery,” she said in a statement to Reuters. “In the longer term I hope to return home to my country."
Yulia and her father, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 spy service, were found unconscious on a public bench in the British city of Salisbury on March 4.
They have both been discharged from hospital - Mr Skripal only last week - but she described their recover as “slow and extremely painful”.
[ Double agent Sergei Skirpal leaves hospital after poisoning ]
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"The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking,” she said. “My life has been turned upside down."
She spoke from a secret location in London as she is under the protection of the British state. She has refused to speak with Russian officials.
She was injured just one day after arriving in the UK to visit her father, who moved to Britain after being exchanged in a spy swap in 2010.
“I'm grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy. But at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services," she said.
Russian officials question why Russia would want to attack an ageing turncoat who was pardoned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he thought Yulia Skripal was speaking under duress. "We have not seen her or heard from her," he told Reuters.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the first known use of a military-grade nerve agent on European soil since World War Two.
Allies in Europe and the United States sided with May's view and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.
Russia retaliated by expelling western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisoning and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.