Putin: ‘Skripal would be dead if novichok was used’

The Russian president’s remarks are in keeping with the Kremlin’s stance that Moscow was not behind the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia on 4 March.

He was speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi, Russia, when he was asked about the 66-year-old’s discharge from Salisbury District Hospital.

Mr Putin said: “God grant him good health, if a military-grade poison had been used, the man would have died on the spot.

Putin: ‘Skripal would be dead if novichok was used’
Putin: ‘Skripal would be dead if novichok was used’

“Thank God he recovered and that he left (hospital).”

Sergei Skripal
Image:Sergei Skripal has been discharged from Salisbury Hospital

Mr Skripal’s release from hospitalfollows that of his daughter 33-year-old Yulia after both of them were poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

The pair were found unconscious and frothing at the mouth on a park bench in the cathedral city after coming into contact with the military-grade agent.

DS Nick Bailey, who was exposed to novichok while investigating the attack, was the first to be discharged from hospital on 22 March.

Yulia Skripal is no longer in a critical condition
Image:Yulia Skripal was released from hospital in April

Salisbury District Hospital Chief Executive, Cara Charles-Barks, said: “While these patients have now been discharged, their right to patient confidentiality remains and limits us from giving detailed accounts of the treatment these individuals received.

“However, treating people who are so acutely unwell, having been poisoned by nerve agents, requires stabilising them, keeping them alive until their bodies could produce more enzymes to replace those that had been poisoned.”

Mr Skripal’s good friend Ross Cassidy told Sky News he was delighted to hear his pal has been discharged.

He said: “It’s great news that Sergei is well enough to come out of hospital at last, because like everyone else, I had at first feared the worst.

“We hope to see Sergei soon, but I imagine he will be under some security.”

Sergei Skripal's house
Image:Emergency services descended on Sergei Skripal’s house after the poisoning

Detectives were still questioning Mr Skripal on Thursday as he continued his recovery nearly 10 weeks after the attack.

:: What is a nerve agent and how does it work?

Officers wanted to know more about his frequent train journeys to London and his alleged monthly meetings with a former MI6 handler in a Salisbury restaurant.

Russia has accused the UK of “forcefully containing” the Skripals as the Kremlin continues to insist it was not behind the attack, which sparked a wave of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.

The former spy and his daughter have since turned down offers of help from their home country.

Alexander Yakovenko, Russia’s ambassador to the UK, said at a press conference in London: “We are happy that he is all right.”

He added: “We are still demanding access to these people. We want to understand how they feel.

“We want them to tell (us) personally what they want. If they don’t want our assistance, that’s fine, but we want to see them physically.”

Mr Yakovenko has claimed the UK is violating international law by not granting access to the Skripals

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Video:National security adviser: Russia has been spying on Skripals for five years

The UK’s national security adviser Mark Sedwill told MPs on 1 May that no suspects have been identified in the police investigation.

Mr Sedwill had previously told NATO that Russian intelligence had been spying on the Skripals for at least five years.

A Scotland Yard statement said: “Detectives from the UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing network continue to investigate the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March this year.

“They are both making good progress and we are pleased that Mr Skripal has now also been released from hospital, which was announced by the NHS earlier this morning.

“This is a complex investigation and detectives continue to gather and piece together all the evidence to establish the full facts and circumstances behind this dreadful attack.

“In the interests of Sergei and Yulia’s safety, we will not be discussing any protective or security arrangements that are in place.”

Alastair Hay, Professor of Environmental Toxicology at Leeds University, has previously told Sky News that the Skripals had managed a “miracle” recovery.

He added: “The nerve agents are deadly.

“That’s why they were chosen as chemical weapons. If you are exposed to a number of lethal doses then invariably it is fatal.”

Professor Hay continued: “The Skripals have survived because they’ve had great medical care.”

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