‘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
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