Poisoned ex-spy is 'improving rapidly,' doctor says

Image: Forensic experts at the scene in Salisbury, England where ex-spy Ser
Specialist officers in protective suits secure the police forensic tent that had been blown over by the wind and is covering the bench where Sergei Skripal was found critically ill. Copyright Matt Cardy
By Alastair Jamieson with NBC News World News
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The former double agent is "no longer in a critical condition" from the attack, officials say.

LONDON — Poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal is "improving rapidly" and no longer critically ill, health officials announced Friday.

Sergei Skripal pictured in 2006.
Sergei Skripal pictured in 2006.Yury Senatorov

The former double agent and his daughter, Yulia, were found slumped on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 after being sickened by Novichok, a military-grade toxin.

The U.K. says they were poisoned with the nerve agent by Russia and has laid the blame at the Kremlin's door.

"He is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition," Dr. Christine Blanshard, medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, said in a statement issued Friday.

More two dozen Western allies, including the U.S., have ordered out Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity. Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement in the Skripal attack and has retaliated by expelling envoys.

President Donald Trump's administration took one of its most aggressive actions against Russia Friday, announcing sweeping sanctions on oligarchs, top officials and several businesses, including a bank and a state-owned weapons trading company.

Blanshard also repeated the news, which had been confirmed Thursday, that Yulia Skripal's condition had improved to "stable" and that "she can look forward to the day when she is well enough to leave the hospital."

"Yulia has asked for privacy while she continues to get better," Blanshard said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday described the British accusations against Moscow as a mockery of international law.

Speaking at a news conference, he insisted that the whole episode was fabricated by Britain to "demonize" Russia.

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