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Condition of poisoned Russian spy ‘improving rapidly’

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Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, whose poisoning in England set off a diplomatic crisis, is recovering rapidly, doctors said on Friday. His pets, however, are confirmed to have died.

Dr. Christine Blanshard, the medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, said the conditions of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, have continued to improve over the past week. Yulia could be discharged soon, she said.

“[Sergei] is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition,” Blanshard said in a statement. “As you’ll appreciate, I won’t be giving any further updates at this time.”

The news came as British authorities confirmed that Sergei’s three pets have died, although it was not immediately clear whether they were poisoned or died of other causes. There was also no word on when they died.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said two guinea pigs were found dead when a vet was able to access Skripal’s home. A cat was found in a “distressed state” and a decision was made to euthanize the animal.

The Russian Embassy in London said Defra’s statement raised more questions than answers.

“The fact that the animals were locked inside the house for several days suggests that the police did not access the alleged crime scene, which would be very unusual for such a high profile investigation,” the embassy said. “Such treatment of pets is also hardly consistent with UK laws on animal cruelty and comes as a blatant disregard to Mr Skripal’s rights as the owner and companion of the animals.”

Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury. The British government has accused Russia of carrying out the attack with the military-grade Novichok nerve agent, although Moscow has strongly denied any involvement.

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