Ex-Russian spy in poison attack no longer in critical condition, hospital says
'He is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly,' hospital official says
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is no longer in critical condition and his health is improving rapidly more than a month after he was poisoned with a nerve agent, the British hospital treating him said on Friday.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious, slumped on a public bench, in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain said they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent first developed by the Soviet Union. Russia has denied it had anything to do with the first known use of such a toxin on European soil since World War II.
Sergei Skripal "is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition," Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, said in a statement.
Blanshard said she was providing the update in response to "intense media coverage yesterday."
On Thursday, British police released the first public comments from Yulia Skripal, quoting her as saying she's getting stronger by the day.
As well, Russian state television reported Yulia had phoned her cousin, Viktoria Skripal, and told her that she and her father were both recovering, and she expected to leave hospital soon.
In the phone call recording released by Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti, Yulia Skripal said she and her father were both recovering and that her father's health was not irreparably damaged.
Viktoria, who works as a chief accountant in the city of Yaroslavl, Russia, said Friday she had recorded the call because she had an app on her phone that tracks calls she makes for work.
She said she had hoped to travel to Britain to visit Sergei and Yulia, but the British government had denied her a visa because her application "did not comply with the immigration rules."
Moscow wants explanations regarding Britain's refusal to issue the visa, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told RIA-Novosti Friday.
Britain has said Russia is responsible for the attack, while Moscow denies any involvement. The incident has had major diplomatic ramifications, with mass expulsions of Russian and Western diplomats.