It has been a busy day for Yulia Skripal.
This morning, she released a public statement, her first since she and her father were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury last month. “I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily,” Skripal said in a statement released by the Metropolitan Police. “I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received.”
She went on to thank the “people of Salisbury” and her doctors for their help. And she called the poisoning incident “disorienting” and asked for privacy.
Authorities say Skripal and her father, Sergei, were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent known as Novichok, which investigators suspect was smeared on the doorknob of their home in Salisbury. The toxin, invented by Soviet scientists during the Cold War, is fatal in small doses and can be absorbed through the skin. The pair were found unconscious on a park bench in town.
British authorities quickly pointed the finger of blame at Russia. Skripal was a former Russian double agent who had provided tips and information to Britain's MI5 intelligence service. He was caught and imprisoned in Russia in 2006. In 2010, he was released as part of a spy swap and moved to Britain.
In response to the Skripal poisoning, Britain and its allies have expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats. Russia has responded in kind, expelling 150 Western diplomats and shuttering the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg. The Kremlin has strenuously denied involvement in the poisoning, and it has worked to cast doubt on nearly every aspect of the British government's investigation and assessment.
In the latest such volley: Early this morning, Russian TV released a bizarre recording of an alleged phone call between Yulia Skripal and her cousin Viktoria. In it, Yulia purportedly tells her family, “Everything is okay.”
Her father, she says, “is resting now, having a sleep. Everyone's health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is okay.” In the recording, the woman purporting to be Viktoria says she hopes to visit her, but Yulia says she won't get a visa.
Viktoria also told a Russian news outlet that she was informed days earlier that she couldn't speak to her cousin and that she plans to try to bring Yulia back to Russia. It is not clear whether the alleged phone conversation is authentic and why Viktoria recorded it if she wasn't expecting the call.
On Wednesday, Sputnik news reported that Yulia's account on a popular Russian social media platform was active at times after the poisoning. Online, some Russians wondered whether British police or the hospital where she was being treated were responsible for that.
In a meeting with reporters, the Russian ambassador to Britain would not say whether the purported phone call between Yulia and her cousin had been authenticated. Instead, he insisted that Britain give Russia immediate access to Yulia. “This is not a game,” he said. “These citizens are poisoned, and we want to know the truth.”
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has rejected Russia's request to be part of the investigation. On Thursday, the Kremlin will petition the U.N. Security Council for access.
Sergei Skripal is in critical but stable condition, according to the BBC.