NEWS
24/05/2018 08:06 BST | Updated 24/05/2018 09:54 BST

Yulia Skripal Video Prompts Bizarre Response From Russia's UK Embassy

'So far, we have every reason to suspect the opposite.'

Russia’s embassy in London has responded to Yulia Skripal’s video statement by suggesting she is being held against her will by British authorities and speaking under duress.

The 33-year-old who was poisoned in March along with her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, told Reuters her “life has been turned upside down” and that they were both lucky to have “survived this attempted assassination”.

In a statement released after the video became public, the Russian embassy failed to settle on one of the more than 20 explanations for the poisoning expounded by Russian sources, but continued to insist something was still amiss.

Emphasising they were “glad to have seen Yulia Skripal alive and well”, a spokesperson said “the video shown only strengthens our concerns as to the conditions in which she is being held”.

“Obviously, Yulia was reading a pre-written text. More than that, judging by quite a few elements, the text was a translation from English and had been initially written by a native English-speaker.

“The handwritten letters signed by Yulia in Russian and English confirm this impression.”

The statement then reiterated calls for the UK Government to provide access to Yulia “in order to make sure that she is not held against her own will and is not speaking under pressure”.

Adding: “So far, we have every reason to suspect the opposite.”

During her video statement Yulia expressed a hope to return to Russia “in the longer term” but refused immediate assistance from the country’s authorities. 

Russia’s ambassador in London, Alexander Yakovenko, has repeatedly demanded to see Yulia, who was a Russian citizen when she was poisoned.

“I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy. But at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services,” Yulia, who wore a light blue summer dress and bore a scar on her throat understood to be from a tracheotomy - a procedure to help patients breathe, said.

Despite this, many people on social media agreed with Russia that the British Government were covering something up.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. May blames Russia for the poisoning.

It was the first known use of a military-grade nerve agent on European soil since World War Two. Allies in Europe and the United States sided with May’s view and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War.

Russia retaliated by expelling Western diplomats. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement and accused the British intelligence agencies of staging the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

Yulia Skripal statement in full

“I came to the UK on the 3rd of March to visit my father, something I have done regularly in the past.

“After 20 days in a coma, I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned.

“I still find it difficult to come to terms with the fact that both of us were attacked. We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.

“The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking. I don’t want to describe the details but the clinical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.

“I am grateful to all of the wonderful, kind staff at Salisbury hospital, a place I have become all too familiar with. I also think fondly of those who helped us on the street on the day of the attack.

“I was discharged from hospital on the 9th of April and continue to progress with treatment but my life has been turned upside down as I try to come to terms with the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally.

“I take one day at a time and want to help care for my Dad till his full recovery. In the longer term I hope to return home to my country.

“I wish to address a couple of issues directly and have chosen to interrupt my rehabilitation to make this short statement. I ask that everyone respects the privacy of me and my father. We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened.

“I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.

“Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.”