The mother of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal has not been told of the nerve agent attack that left him and his daughter critically ill, his niece has revealed.
“The first priority was to protect our granny so that she wouldn’t hear or find out anything,” Viktoria Skripal said, speaking out more than three weeks after her 66-year-old uncle and cousin, Yulia, were poisoned in Salisbury.
She said there was a slim chance the pair would survive the March 4 attack, saying the prognosis “really isn’t good”.
“Out of 99% I have maybe 1% of hope. Whatever it was has given them a very small chance of survival. But they’re going to be invalids for the rest of their lives,” Viktoria told the BBC.
Meanwhile, Skripal’s best friend believes the double agent and his daughter are so unwell they should be allowed to die.
Ross Cassidy, who met Skripal when he moved in next door in Salisbury in 2010, told Sky News: “Quite frankly, what future have they got? I don’t know the properties of this weapon that was used on them and my guess is they are probably being kept alive by artificial means and what life will they have if they survive?
“We’ve already been told they will be severely mentally impaired and I don’t think they would want that. I think death would probably be merciful.”
The calls came as countries across the world joined the UK in diplomatic action against Russia, which has been blamed for the attack.
Theresa May hailed the “unprecedented series of expulsions” of Russian diplomats, which she said sent a strong message to Moscow that it could not ignore international law.
The Russian Embassy in the UK said the Prime Minister had still not presented evidence that the country was responsible for the poisonings, adding that “no-one in the wider world would take British words for granted”.
It also responded to claims by officials that more than 20 different stories had come out of Moscow since the attack to “try and confuse the picture”.
A statement posted on its website read: “This only confirms the openness of the Russian society and the independence of Russian media, which Prime Minister May wrongly confuses with the Russian state.
“Given the lack of official information, every Russian, just like every Briton, is entitled to their own version of events.
“Let’s also not forget that at least five different versions of the poisoning have been ‘leaked’ by the police to British media: the Skripals were either poisoned in a pub, or in a restaurant, or in their car, or by putting the chemical into Ms Skripal’s suitcase, or by smearing their door handle.
“To see Russia being accused of spreading false rumours in this context is rather surprising.”
On Wednesday, Ireland became the 24th country to join the the UK in diplomatic action against the Kremlin.
With Downing Street saying that more than 115 Russian diplomats had been ordered home by friends and allies, Dublin added one more to the list.
In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, hinted that the Kremlin would respond with tit-for-tat expulsions, saying Russia would proceed from the “principle of reciprocity”.
Russia has already ordered 23 British diplomats to leave in response to the expulsion of a similar number of undeclared Russian intelligence officers from the UK.