Putin demands Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal

Andrew Roth — The Guardian June 7, 2018

Yulia Skripal in UK

Vladimir Putin on Thursday demanded that Russian officials be given consular access to Yulia Skripal and that Russian law enforcement agencies take part in the investigation into her poisoning with a military-grade nerve agent.

Skripal and her father, a former double agent who was released from Russian prison in a spy swap with the UK in 2010, were poisoned with a novichok nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury in March.

British officials have blamed Russia for the attack, calling it the first use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe since the second world war.

“We would very much like to be given access to our citizens, to Yulia in this case, and to be given the opportunity to take part in the investigation,” Putin said during a nationally televised question-and-answer session on Thursday.

Putin also said that both Skripal and her father would have died if a military-grade nerve agent was used.

Both Skripals were found unconscious and “critically unwell” after the poisoning. Doctors were concerned they could die or suffer irreversible brain damage. Both eventually recovered to the point where they could be discharged from the hospital.

Sergei Skripal has not spoken publicly about the attack, while in a statement in May, his daughter asked for privacy.

The recovery had been “slow and extremely painful,” she said, adding that she wanted to care for her father and eventually “return home to my country”.

She also turned down entreaties from the Russian government to discuss the case or provide consular assistance.

“I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian embassy but at the moment do not wish to avail myself of their services,” she wrote in a handwritten statement released by Reuters.

Putin also used recent tensions with the UK to suggest that wealthy Russian businessmen, often called oligarchs, bring their money back to Russia.

Russian businessmen have been spooked by the delay suffered by Roman Abramovich, one of Russia’s richest men and the owner of Chelsea FC since 2003, in obtaining a renewed UK visa.

Russian officials believe Abramovich was targeted following the Skripal incident because of his high profile and his support for Putin.

Putin said that he had warned Russian businessmen “fairly rudely” in a private meeting several years ago that they were putting themselves in danger by investing in London.

“I warned that what we are seeing now was possible,” he said. “I recommended that our business keep its capital at home, hold its capital where it was earned, and use it in order to develop the Russian economy.”

Abramovich has received Israeli citizenship, which allows him entry into the UK but not the right to do business there.

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