MOSCOW, April 5. /TASS/. Former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal’s niece Viktoria Skripal claims to have had a telephone call with her cousin Yulia, the Rossiya-1 TV channel reported on Thursday.
The call’s recording, provided by Viktoria, was made public during Rossiya-1’s 60 minutes program. According to the program’s hosts, the recording has not been verified yet.
The recording has Viktoria Skripal talking to another woman who introduces herself as Yulia Skripal. She says that she is doing fine. Viktoria informs her she plans to come to London on Monday provided she receives a visa, but the other woman says that "no one will give you a visa."
The woman claiming to be Yulia Skripal adds that Sergei Skripal "is all right."
"Everyone is recovering, everyone survived… No irreparable harm was done. That’s all, I will soon be discharged from the hospital," she said.
On March 4, Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
However, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.
On March 26, in the wake of the Skripal incident, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Washington expelled 60 diplomatic workers and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.
The Russian Foreign Ministry later announced retaliatory measures against counties that had expelled Russian diplomats. In particular, Moscow expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg. The United Kingdom was requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.