In the weeks since the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, we’ve seen many a plot twist, accusation and counter-accusation – but Thursday was exceptional.
A suspicious phone call, an unexpected statement from one the victims and a unnecessarily entertaining press conference all emerged within a few hours of each other, culminating in the Russian ambassador to the UK lamenting that “many Russian citizens who die here in very strange circumstances”.
Here are seven other head-scratching moments...
1) Russia Used a Twitter Poll As Evidence
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon, the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, quoted the results of a Twitter poll as evidence that “most of the British public” believe the results of investigations will be covered up.
It’s not clear if the Russian embassy is aware that tweets from UK Twitter accounts can be viewed outside of the UK itself.
2) Russian TV Broadcast A Dubious Phone Call
On Thursday, Russian state TV broadcast what was alleged to be a call between Yulia, 33, and her cousin. Until now, Yulia was thought to be in a stable but critical condition in hospital.
Viktoria Skripal said they had spoken by telephone and a recording of the alleged call was been given to the Rossiya-1 TV channel.
Its authenticity has not been verified. A transcript of the alleged call has been published by the BBC.
In it, the woman claiming to be Yulia said her father Sergei “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 is alleged to have said.
Transcript of alleged conversation
The hosts of the 60 Minute show on state-owned Rossiya 1 - Yevgeny Popov and Olga Skabeyeva - said they were unable to confirm the authenticity of the phone call.
This transcript was published in English by the BBC:
Alleged Yulia: Hello. Do you hear me?
Viktoria: Yes, I hear you.
Alleged Yulia: It is Yulia Skripal.
Viktoria: Oh, Yulka [diminutive of Yulia] it is you! I recognise from your voice that it is you but cannot understand. So, they gave you a telephone, didn’t they?
Alleged Yulia: Yes, yes.
Viktoria: Thanks God! Yulyash [diminutive of Yulia], is everything okay with you?
Alleged Yulia: Everything is ok, everything is fine.
Viktoria: Look, if tomorrow I get a (British) visa, I will come to you on Monday.
Alleged Yulia: Vika, no-one will give you the visa.
Viktoria: Well I thought so too. Oh well.
Alleged Yulia: Most likely.
Viktoria: If they give it, I need you to tell me whether I can visit you or not, tell me that I can.
Alleged Yulia: I think no, there is such a situation now, we’ll sort it out later.
Viktoria: I know it, I know it all.
Alleged Yulia: Later, we will get it sorted later, everything’s fine, we’ll see later.
Viktoria: Is it your phone?
Alleged Yulia: It is a temporary phone. Everything is fine, but we’ll see how it goes, we’ll decide later. You know what the situation is here. Everything is fine, everything is solvable, everyone (he and her father) is recovering and is alive.
Viktoria: Clear! Is everything ok with your father?
Alleged Yulia: Everything is ok. He is resting now, having a sleep. Everyone’s health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is ok.
Viktoria: Kisses, my bunny.
Alleged Yulia: Bye.
3) The Met Police Published Yulia’s First Official Statement
Just hours after the phone call aired – and while Ambassador Yakovenko was in full swing – the Met Police issued a statement on behalf of Yulia Skripal.
It read: “I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily. I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received.
“I have many people to thank for my recovery and would especially like to mention the people of Salisbury that came to my aid when my father and I were incapacitated. Further than that, I would like to thank the staff at Salisbury District Hospital for their care and professionalism.
“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.”
4) The Russian Embassy Used The Press Conference To Boast About 5G
Yakovenko used the press conference as an opportunity to extol Russia’s excellent mobile internet coverage.
He said: ”[The World Cup] is a great opportunity to show [people] our country. Not many people know but last month we launched 5G - you know what’s 5G? On your mobile phones? It’s 10 times faster than 4G.”
Later in the press conference, Yakovenko was asked if the Russians were taking the whole poisoning affair seriously enough given their embassy’s creative – and often provocative – approach to Twitter.
He replied: “It’s not a game, we are taking this seriously. We are using the sense of humour because some statements [from the UK] are really... well, are not friendly with the common sense.
“We take everything very seriously. For us, it is not a joke.”
5) Russia Blamed It All On Brexit. Again
Yakovenko repeated claims made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that the poisoning may have been carried out to “divert attention from Brexit”.
He said: “I comment on the British foreign policy and from my point of view there are two reasons and that’s exactly what my minister said.
“Divert attention from the Brexit, this is what Lavrov said. The second is to take the lead in the Western world for deterrence of Russia.
“So these two roles, as my minister said, were behind everything what happened.”
6) Russia Indulged In Some Creative Counting
Asked if Russia was isolated after its call for a new, joint investigation into the Salisbury poisoning was defeated at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Yakovenko said “of course not”.
Russia lost the vote by 15 votes to six, while 17 member states abstained.
Yakovenko said: “Six votes in favour of our decision and 17 which didn’t support so altogether it’s 23, very simple count.
“You have 15 who voted against and this is NATO and EU countries.”
7) Russia Has Never Had The Nerve Agent In Question, Apparently
Yakovenko also denied that Russia had ever produced Novichok. He told the press conference: “The whole story about Novichok started in the United States in the ’90s.
“It is nothing to do with Russia. We never produced it, we never had Novichok.
“This is a creation of some other countries and some scientists.”
This runs counter to testimony from the Russian scientists who developed it.
Vil Mirzayanov, a former chemist and head of the Soviet-era technical counterintelligence department, told The Atlantic last month: “I was working to protect these weapons.”