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Yulia Skripal, victim in poisoning in Britain, upgraded to stable condition

Yulia Skripal, one of three hospitalized in the nerve-agent poisoning in southern England, has had her condition upgraded, as the international political fallout from the incident continued to reverberate on Thursday as Russia announced counter-sanctions.

Russia to close U.S. consulate, expel diplomats in response to international censure in Skripal case

Yulia Skripal's condition has improved since she was poisoned earlier this month. British investigators found traces of nerve agent at the park where she was found and at the home of her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal. (Yulia Skripal/Facebook)

Yulia Skripal, one of three hospitalized in the nerve-agent poisoning in southern England, has had her condition upgraded, as the international political fallout from the incident continued to reverberate on Thursday.

The medical director for Salisbury District Hospital said Skripal, 33, is now in stable condition.

"She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day," said Dr. Christine Blanshard in a statement.

British authorities say they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent and have blamed Russia. Moscow denies involvement in the attack, which has sparked a diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, her father and the apparent target of the attack, is in critical but stable condition, the hospital said.

The pair were found slumped over in a park on March 4 in Salisbury.

Police say they were likely exposed to the nerve agent on the door of Sergei Skripal's suburban house in Salisbury, where the highest concentration of the chemical has been found.

Concerns over contamination have continued in the weeks since. London police confirmed the cordoning off of an area at a playground on Thursday was related to the incident.

"As a precautionary measure, they have this afternoon placed a cordon around a children's play area at Montgomery Gardens, near the Skripals' home," the statement said.

About 250 counterterrorism officers are working on the investigation, retracing the movements of the Skripals to uncover how the poison was delivered. The search has included a pub, a restaurant and a cemetery.

Georgia makes move in solidarity

The 66-year-old Skripal, who passed the identity of dozens of spies to the MI6 foreign intelligence agency, was given refuge in Britain after he was exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.

Yulia Skripal was most recently living in Russia and visiting her father, it has been reported.

British police officer Nick Bailey, whose condition was less grave than the Skripals, was released from hospital last week.

NATO and over 20 countries including Canada this week announced they were expelling Russian diplomats or revoking visas that had been approved. Britain earlier this month ordered 23 Russian officials removed from the country.

Russia's foreign minister said on Thursday that Moscow will respond in kind, expelling the same number of diplomats as the nations who took part in those efforts. Some 150 Russian diplomats were affected overall by the international response.

Sergey Lavrov said U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where he was given notice that Russia is responding quid pro quo to the U.S. decision to order 60 Russian diplomats out.

Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal is shown during a court proceeding in Moscow in 2006. He remains critically ill. (Yuri Senatorov/Kommersant/AFP/Getty Images)

Lavrov said Moscow will also retaliate against the U.S. decision to shut the Russian consulate in Seattle by closing the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg.

Meanwhile, the former Soviet republic of Georgia on Thursday joined the list of those acting in solidarity with Britain, saying it would expel one Russian diplomat.

Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia following a brief war in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Russian diplomats have been operating out of the special interests section of the Swiss Embassy in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, since 2009.

With files from CBC News

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