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Skripal’s niece says learned about Salisbury poisoning from media reports

April 04, 2018, 20:50 UTC+3 MOSCOW

She said she had spoken to her uncle last time over the phone two weeks before the incident

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MOSCOW, April 4. /TASS/. Viktoria Skripal, the niece of the former Russian military intelligence officer and British spy Sergei Skripal, who underwent exposure to a supposed nerve agent in Salisbury, UK, on March 4, said she had learned about the incident from media reports.

"We learned about the event at 6 p.m. Moscow time from a BBC report," Viktoria told a prime-time news and analysis show on Rossiya One channel.

"First our friends called us and then I downloaded the story and saw that Sergei Viktorovich [the second word being Skripal’s patronymic, a mandatory element in the Russian system of names - TASS] and an unknown 33-year-old woman had been exposed to poisoning," Skripal said.

She also said she had spoken to her uncle last time over the phone two weeks before the incident.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found on March 4 siting in a comatose condition on a bench at the entrance of the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury. They were taken to a district hospital where the doctors diagnosed them with exposure to a chemical substance.

Investigators and defense experts said later the Skripals had been poisoned with a nerve agent, which they identified the one belonging to the Novichok group of gasses, ostensibly developed and produced in the former Soviet Union in the 1970’s.

The UK authorities almost immediately apportioned full blame for the incident to Russia, demanding explanations for how the nerve agent might have gotten to the UK and refusing to send to Moscow a sample of the substance detected in Salisbury.

Russia has strongly denied any charges in connection with the case. Top-rank government officials and experts have said on many occasions the codename Novichok, which the Britons specified as a substance the Skripals were poisoned with, embraced several agents and Russia never produced them after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Officials have pointed out repeatedly the fact that the destruction of all the Soviet-era stockpiles of weapons-grade chemical agents was completed in Russia in 2016 and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed it.

The Skripal case went far beyond the war of words, with London and its allies expelling more than 150 Russian diplomats and Moscow reciprocating in kind.

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