Buses wait to carry expelled diplomats to leave the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, April 5, 2018. Russia last week ordered 60 American diplomats to leave the country by Thursday, in retaliation for the United States expelling the same number of Russians. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Daughter of poisoned ex-Russian spy says she’s recovering

Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal

The poisoned daughter of an ex-Russian spy said Thursday she’s recovering quickly after her ordeal, while Russia strongly protested being locked out of the probe into the nerve agent that sickened her and her father.

Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the city of Salisbury. In response, more than two dozen Western allies including Britain, the U.S. and NATO have ordered out over 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity.

Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement in the nerve agent attack and expelled an equal number of envoys. The diplomatic turmoil has hit lows unseen even at the height of the Cold War.

Early Thursday, three buses believed to be carrying expelled American diplomats departed from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow after putting their luggage on trucks. Some toted pet carriers.

READ: Four Canadian diplomats expelled from Russia

Yulia Skripal said in a statement released Thursday by British police that her strength is growing daily and expressed gratitude to those who came to her aid.

“I am sure you appreciate that the entire episode is somewhat disorientating, and I hope that you’ll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence,” the 33-year-old said.

The British hospital treating the Skripals has confirmed that Yulia’s condition has improved, while her father, 66, has remained in critical condition.

Russian state television on Thursday released an apparent recording of a phone call between Yulia Skripal and her cousin in Russia, though Rossiya TV said it could not verify the recording’s authenticity. In it, Yulia Skripal purportedly says she and her father are both recovering and in normal health. She says her father is sleeping and his health has not been irreparably damaged.

Rossiya TV said Skripal’s niece, Viktoria, who lives in Moscow, gave it the recording of her conversation with Yulia.

READ: US, France, Germany blame Russia for UK nerve agent attack

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, described the British accusations against Moscow over the nerve agent poisoning of the Skripals as a mockery of international law. Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Lavrov insisted that the poisoning case was fabricated by Britain to “demonize” Russia.

“The so-called Skripal case has been used as a fictitious, orchestrated pretext for the unfounded massive expulsions of Russian diplomats not only from the U.S. and Britain but also from a number of other countries who simply had their arms twisted,” Lavrov said in Moscow. “We have never seen such an open mockery of the international law, diplomatic ethics and elementary decorum.”

Russia last week ordered 60 American diplomats to leave the country by Thursday in retaliation for the United States expelling the same number of Russians.

Lavrov noted that Russia will respond in kind to any further hostile moves, but added “we also want to establish the truth.”

He sarcastically likened the British accusations to the queen from Alice in Wonderland urging “sentence first — verdict afterward.”

On Wednesday, Russia called a meeting of the international chemical weapons watchdog to demand a joint investigation with Britain into the poisoning — the demand that London has rejected.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted against the Russian proposal, but Moscow said the number of countries that abstained from the vote suggested many have doubts about Britain’s accusations.

“It’s unacceptable to make unfounded accusations instead of conducting a fair investigation and providing concrete facts,” Lavrov said. “Yesterday’s debate in The Hague showed that self-respecting adults don’t believe in fairy tales.”

Asked Thursday if Russia would accept the OPCW’s conclusions, Lavrov said Moscow must be part of the probe and see the evidence.

“We can’t give an advance approval to results of the investigation, in which we aren’t taking part and which is kept secret,” he said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Wednesday that “the purpose of Russia’s ludicrous proposal at The Hague was clear — to undermine the independent, impartial work of the international chemical weapons watchdog.”

The chief of Britain’s defence research lab, the Porton Down laboratory, acknowledged Tuesday it has not been able to pinpoint the precise source of the nerve agent.

Gary Aitkenhead said scientists there identified the substance used on the Skripals as a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok. But he added “it’s not our job to say where that was actually manufactured.”

Lavrov said Aitkenhead’s statement indicated that Porton Down had samples of Novichok to use it as a marker to determine the type of the nerve agent used in the attack. He noted that Britain has failed to acknowledge yet that it possesses Novichok.

The British government says it relied on a combination of scientific analysis and other intelligence to conclude that the nerve agent came from Russia, but the Foreign Office on Wednesday deleted a tweet from last month that said Porton Down scientists had identified the substance as “made in Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envoy for cybersecurity, Alexander Krutskikh, mocked the contradictory statements, saying Thursday that “the latest developments around the Skripal case indicate the days of this British Cabinet are numbered.”

Moscow has called a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to press its case.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Danica Kirka And Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Findlay to be next CPC candidate for South Surrey-White Rock

Former cabinet minister lost 2017 election to Liberal Gordie Hogg

Teenage girl, 17, accused of stabbing girl, 16, in Surrey

Victim’s injuries not life-threatening

Fledgling Surrey City Orchestra tunes up for showcase concert Friday

Conductor Stuart Martin’s four-year goal is to build a core group of about 60 Surrey-based musicians

Fraser Health to buy two private MRI clinics in Surrey, Abbotsford

New clinics will provide 2,000 more MRIs by fiscal year-end

Safe Surrey Coalition opposes removing any property from ALR

McCallum and Pettigrew take issue with a Port Kells proposal to exclude property from the Agricultural Land Reserve

Video: Flyers new mascot ‘Gritty’ a bearded, googly-eyed terror

The Philadelphia Flyers unveiled their new mascot Monday, and as one would expect of the team that gave us the “Broad Street Bullies,” he’s far from cuddly.

Edmonton cannabis company revenues more than triples to $19.1 million

Aurora Cannabis revenues more than triple in fourth quarter

B.C. pharmacist suspended for giving drugs with human placenta

RCMP had samples of the seized substances tested by Health Canada

Seattle one step closer to NHL after arena plan approved

Seattle City Council unanimously approved plans for a privately funded $700 million renovation of KeyArena

Harvest Moon to light up B.C. skies with an ‘autumn hue’

It’s the first moon after the autumn equinox

Fraser River First Nations say they aren’t getting their share of sockeye salmon

Shortage is a result of decisions made by DFO, not a shortage of sockeye, complaint says

Hockey league gets $1.4M for assistance program after Humboldt Broncos crash

Program will help players, families, coaches and volunteers after the shock of the deadly crash

Canada has removed six out of 900 asylum seekers already facing U.S. deportation

Ottawa had said the ‘overwhelming majority’ had been removed

Most Read

l -->