Yulia Skripal's cousin Viktoria denied UK visa to visit poisoned relatives in hospital

Former spy Sergei Skripal is 'no longer in a critical condition' while his daughter Yulia has regained consciousness 

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Friday 06 April 2018 18:01 BST
Recording of alleged phone call between Skripal daughter and her cousin broadcast on Russian state TV

The cousin of poisoned Yulia Skipral has been denied a UK visa to visit her relatives in hospital, the Home Office has confirmed.

Viktoria Skripal had hoped to visit former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, where the pair have been fighting for their lives after being poisoned by a deadly nerve agent last month.

Mr Skripal is "no longer in a critical condition", doctors said, while Yulia has regained consciousness and thanked the public for their support in her first public comments since the incident on 4 March.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We have refused a visitor visa application from Viktoria Skripal on the grounds that her application did not comply with the immigration rules.”

Viktoria, who lives in Russia, declared she would visit her cousin in hospital after hospital staff announced Yulia was recovering from the attack, which involved the toxic nerve agent novichock.

Russian state television broadcast a telephone conversation between Viktoria and her cousin, where Yulia allegedly said "everything is fine" and her father was "sleeping".

It comes amid growing tensions with Moscow over its role in the attack on the Skripals, as Russia's ambassador to the UN warned Britain it was "playing with fire" for suggesting the Kremlin was behind the poisoning.

Theresa May said it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind the attack and prompted a global wave of diplomatic expulsions by allies, including the US and European nations.

Donald Trump also announced sanctions on seven Russian oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin for "malign activity" around the world.

Hospital bosses said Mr Skripal was "responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and no longer in a critical condition", while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the improvement in the condition of Mr Skripals was "great news" and "testament to the quick work" of the emergency services.

Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, said speculation about when the two could be released from hospital was "just that - speculation".

The Russian Embassy said it hoped the improvement in the Skripals' health will "contribute to the investigation of the crime perpetrated against them".

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are very pleased that both Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia are improving. This is a tribute to the hardworking and talented NHS staff in Salisbury who have provided outstanding care.

"The NHS will continue to provide ongoing care for the Skripals, both of whom are likely to have ongoing medical needs.

"Let us be clear, this was attempted murder using an illegal chemical weapon that we know Russia possesses."

Meanwhile, Russia is demanding an explanation over the deaths of two guinea pigs and a cat, which was found in a distressed state at Mr Skripal's house.

The Russian Embassy said: "Regarding the dead guinea pigs and the malnourished cat, it is said unofficially that they were taken to the Porton Down facility and incinerated there.

"But it remains unclear if their remains were ever tested for toxic substances, which would constitute useful evidence, and if not, why such a decision was made.

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

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