‘Work­ing for the Krem­lin? No, I just want Yu­lia home’

Vik­to­ria Skri­pal claims her cousin is not be­ing al­lowed to speak freely and wants to re­sume her life in Moscow

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Alec Luhn in Moscow and Steve Bird

SHE has in­sisted that the chem­i­cal at­tack on the Skri­pals in Sal­is­bury was re­ally a bad case of food poi­son­ing, and, in the last few days there has been spec­u­la­tion that Vik­to­ria Skri­pal is be­ing ma­nip­u­lated by the Krem­lin.

But in an in­ter­view with The Sun­day Tele­graph, she in­sisted that she knows her cousin, Yu­lia Skri­pal, who is re­cov­er­ing in hos­pi­tal, wants noth­ing more than to re­turn to Moscow.

Just hours be­fore ap­pear­ing on Rus­sian state tele­vi­sion, Vik­to­ria Skri­pal claimed Yu­lia, 33, was des­per­ate to see her fam­ily and knew her fu­ture lay in her na­tive coun­try.

The cousin, who has been re­fused a visa to visit the UK, said Yu­lia still had a boyfriend, a pet and a job to re­turn to in Moscow. “She has a dog here, she has a life here, she has work here, and a loved one here,” Ms Skri­pal said.

The mother-of-two from Yaroslavl, a city near Moscow, was re­fer­ring to Yu­lia’s live-in boyfriend, who has not ap­peared pub­licly since Yu­lia and her fa­ther, Sergei, a for­mer dou­ble agent, were poi­soned last month by a mil­i­tary-grade nerve agent.

The Home Of­fice re­jected Vik­to­ria’s ap­pli­ca­tion to come to the UK be­cause it “did not com­ply with im­mi­gra­tion rules”. How­ever, she claimed she was barred en­try be­cause Lon­don au­thor­i­ties fear she is a “Rus­sian spy”, adding that be­cause she was a com­mit­ted com­mu­nist she is tech­ni­cally a “po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent” of Vladimir Putin, the Rus­sian pres­i­dent.

Last night, the Rus­sian state-run tele­vi­sion sta­tion Chan­nel One claimed Ms Skri­pal planned to take her bat­tle for a visa to the United Na­tions.

She claimed that she had re­ceived a let­ter in which the British em­bassy said it had de­nied her a visa be­cause it was not con­fi­dent that Yu­lia wanted to see her. She re­jected that sug­ges­tion, and claimed her cousin was not be­ing al­lowed to speak freely. She cited a phone call last Wed­nes­day, ap­par­ently from Yu­lia, that was recorded and later broad­cast on Rus­sian state tele­vi­sion.

“Lis­ten to the last minute. You can see that the child is cry­ing, and they’re tak­ing the phone away,” Ms Skri­pal said. “You think she’s cry­ing be­cause she doesn’t want to see me?”

In the call, Ms Skri­pal asks Yu­lia if she can give per­mis­sion for her to see her. “I don’t think so, there’s this sit­u­a­tion here,” Yu­lia re­sponds. Al­though Yu­lia pauses when asked

‘You can see that the child is cry­ing, and they’re tak­ing the phone away. You think she’s cry­ing be­cause she doesn’t want to see me?’

about her fa­ther’s health, she is not au­di­bly dis­tressed or cry­ing. She says her fa­ther is re­cov­er­ing and that she her­self will soon be dis­charged.

Vik­to­ria Skri­pal de­nied that the Krem­lin was in­volved in her planned trip, ar­gu­ing that she had not worked with in­tel­li­gence or se­cu­rity ser­vices.

“If the British say I work for the spe­cial ser­vices, let them prove it,” she said. “Show me one piece of ev­i­dence.”

Some have queried why Ms Skri­pal sud­denly be­gan speak­ing to the me­dia and ap­ply­ing for a visa weeks after the poi­son­ing. There was also some scep­ti­cism about why she had recorded the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion. Ms Skri­pal claimed to record calls as part of her ac­count­ing work, al­though she is cur­rently un­em­ployed. She has since claimed that the Skri­pals had prob­a­bly suf­fered food poi­son­ing on March 4, pos­si­bly from seafood.

Ms Skri­pal also claimed that the British em­bassy said in its re­fusal let­ter that she had not pre­vi­ously vis­ited Sergei or Yu­lia in the UK, and had in­di­cated in her ap­pli­ca­tion that she did not have in­come, sav­ings or spon­sors to pay for her ex­penses. Ms Skri­pal in­sisted she was close to the fa­ther and daugh­ter, but had not been able to leave her sick mother and son, who has spe­cial needs, to travel.

“I com­mu­ni­cated with (Yu­lia) on so­cial me­dia, I only talked with her by phone when I needed to,” she said. She starts a new job to­mor­row and said she would ap­ply again for a visa, al­though she said the UK will likely find an­other “ex­cuse” not to grant it.

She added that she wanted to go to Scot­land Yard to “give ex­pla­na­tions if they are in­ter­ested in some­thing”.

De­spite her com­plaints about a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and trans­parency from the British au­thor­i­ties, Ms Skri­pal was am­biva­lent when asked which coun­try would be safest for Yu­lia. Her cousin could only be out of dan­ger “on the moon,” she said: “In this sit­u­a­tion, with what’s go­ing on now, no one can pro­tect her. Nei­ther side can guar­an­tee her safety.”

Vik­to­ria Skri­pal, right, said Sergei and Yu­lia Skri­pal had been suf­fer­ing from food poi­son­ing, prob­a­bly after eat­ing seafood. UK of­fi­cials have said nerve agent was found at Mr Skri­pal’s home, be­low

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