Russian ex-spy's poisoned daughter says growing stronger

LONDON, United Kingdom – The Russian woman who was poisoned in Britain last month with her former spy father said Thursday, April 5, she was recovering, in her first public statement in a case that has sparked a major diplomatic crisis between Moscow and the West.

"I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily," Yulia Skripal was quoted as saying in comments released by the police.

Britain blames Russia for the poisoning of Yulia and Sergei Skripal last month, but Moscow has furiously denied the charges.

Moscow issued a new broadside against Britain and its allies at the United Nations, warning British officials they were "playing with fire" by insisting Russia was behind the attack.

Yulia Skripal said she had found the incident "disorientating", without providing any further details on the attack in her short statement.

She and her father, a former double agent, were found in a critical condition on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

The crisis has led to a wave of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats between Moscow and the West.

Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia, told the council on Thursday that Britain and its allies were waging a "propaganda war" against Moscow.

"It's some sort of theatre of the absurd. Couldn't you come up with a better fake story?" he said. "We have told our British colleagues that 'you're playing with fire and you'll be sorry.'"

Russian state television earlier aired an unverified recording of a phone conversation between Yulia Skripal and her cousin who lives in Moscow.

In the call, a woman introducing herself as Yulia Skripal said she was expecting to be discharged from hospital soon and that her father Sergei was "fine".

The hospital where the pair are being treated said in their latest update last week that Sergei remained in a critical condition.

'Legitimate questions'

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday complained that Britain had failed to provide "coherent answers" to Moscow's questions over the nerve agent attack.

"It will not be possible to ignore the legitimate questions we are asking," he warned hours before the UN meeting.

The Security Council "should look at this problem in every aspect and, I hope, objectively," Lavrov said.

Early Thursday, some 60 US diplomats who were ordered out of Russia left their embassy compound in Moscow.

Russia called a meeting of the global chemical watchdog on Wednesday, April 4, over the Salisbury incident, but failed in its bid to join the probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

President Vladimir Putin said on a visit to Ankara that "common sense" must prevail to avoid "this damage in international relations".

Moscow was unable to get the required two-thirds of votes from members to approve a joint investigation at Wednesday's OPCW meeting.

Facing off in The Hague

Wednesday's bid to secure a joint probe saw a day of bitter rhetoric between Moscow and Britain and its western allies.

London slammed the joint probe idea as "perverse".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the defeat of Russia's bid.

"The purpose of Russia's ludicrous proposal at The Hague was clear – to undermine the independent, impartial work of the international chemical weapons watchdog," he said, adding that Moscow's main goal was "to obscure the truth and confuse the public."

Britain is carrying out its own probe, with independent technical assistance from OPCW experts.

Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia's SVR foreign intelligence, warned that both sides must avoid tensions escalating to the dangerous levels of the Cold War.

He called the affair a "grotesque provocation... crudely concocted by the British and American security services."

Kremlin demands apology

OPCW experts have already taken on-site samples which are being analyzed in The Hague, as well as in 4 other certified laboratories. The watchdog said it expected the results by early next week.

But in a move hailed as a vindication by Moscow, the British defense laboratory analyzing the nerve agent revealed Tuesday, April 3, that it could not say whether the substance came from Russia.

The Kremlin immediately demanded an apology from Prime Minister Theresa May and her government for implicating Putin in the nerve agent attack, saying this "idiocy has gone too far."

On Thursday, The Times newspaper cited British security sources saying they believe they have pinpointed the location of a Russian laboratory where the nerve agent used in Salisbury was manufactured. –