The daughter of MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal has denied her father begged Russian President Vladimir Putin for a pardon or was interviewed by BBC journalist Mark Urban.
Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets published the transcript of a recorded telephone conversation between Yulia Skripal and her cousin Viktoria on Monday, in which she denied several British media stories about her and her father.
The highlight was her revelation that Sergei refused to be interviewed by BBC Newsnight Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban - who claimed his 2018 book The Skripal Files was based on an interview months before the father and daughter's alleged 2018 poisoning with a nerve agent in the west English town of Salisbury.
"Dad did not give him an interview. They talked a couple of years ago. He only advised Urban through acquaintances," Yulia told Viktoria. "And Dad told me: I didn’t tell him anything about himself. He is shocked because he did not give him an interview — did not give him permission to use anything at all.”
Yulia also denied media reports from 2018 that her father had written to Vladimir Putin asking for a pardon so he could return to Russia.
"Even in 2010, when he just moved here, his grandmother herself told him on the phone: 'Do not try to return to Russia. Stay there," Yulia said. "Now a wave is rising, as if he is not traveling because this has happened. Rumours began: he wrote a petition to the president. He did not write anything to anyone, he did not ask anyone for anything."
And Yulia dispelled media reports that they two had emigrated to New Zealand, saying: "I really want to go to New Zealand, but, unfortunately, not yet.”
The recorded conversation reportedly took place on November 21. Reporter Lev Speransky deduced that Yulia was using SIP phone technology to hide her phone ID, as the call displayed a St Petersburg number on Viktoria's phone. The newspaper did not run a voice pattern match on the recording, but Viktoria said she was convinced it was Yulia on the line.
Yulia said her father had asked her to call to check on his 93-year-old mother after having "bad premonitions" about her. The daughter said she and Sergei were living in separate rented accommodation on his pension from MI6, the UK foreign intelligence service which recruited him as a double agent in 1995.
She added that Sergei may eventually sell his abandoned home in Salisbury, where police claim Russian agents smeared the nerve toxin Novichok on the door handle in an attempt to kill the former spy - which Viktoria expressed fears over others being exposed to the poison.
"This is an open area. Anyone comes to the door, knocks," Yulia replied. "when a person comes up from the front, anyone can grab the handle."
Yulia said Sergei now has a live-in nurse who cares for him. She said Sergei still cannot breathe independently due to paralysis in the muscles of his nose and throat from the March 2018 poisoning, when he was given a tracheotomy - an external breathing tube implanted in the windpipe. And Yulia said her father suffers from a build-up of phlegm in his throat.
But she said Sergei was exercising on a walking machine and she was out for a hike in fields during the call.
Following the 2018 incident in Salisbury, almost 30 countries including the UK and US expelled a total of more than 150 Russian diplomats in retaliation, while the US and European Union slapped sanctions on Russia. Moscow has consistently denied involvement in the poisoning and has protested that the UK failed to provide evidence or allow its embassy in London access to the Skripals, who remain Russian nationals.