“The Skripal Files,” written by Mark Urban on the basis of his 2017 interview with Sergei Skripal who was poisoned in Salisbury in March, alleged that the ex-GRU colonel and his daughter Yulia had been offered to move to the United States or another English-speaking country, where they would live under new identities. However, neither Sergei, nor Yulia had supported the proposal.
The authorities, he claimed, didn’t want to face the risk of public accusations and lawsuits; neither did they want the Skripal family to face media scrutiny. The BBC journalist further suggested that if Skripal’s case fell within a witness protection program, he would have to disappear.
According to Urban, both Sergei and Yulia keep in touch with their friends, have access to television, Internet, and phone, and mainly communicate with people via e-mails and social media. Their whereabouts, however, remain unknown.
The author also wrote some intriguing details about the family’s life in Salisbury when he visited Sergei a year ago.
“There was a stack of jigsaw puzzles… I also saw an Airfix scale model of HMS Victory. Sergei had put Nelson’s flagship together, including rigging the masts with cotton, a fiddly task requiring considerable patience,” Urban wrote, alleging that Sergei was killing time.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Embassy in the UK slammed the book as a “substitute” for Skripal’s testimony.
“We are yet to familiar ourselves with the contents of the book. But its author, Mark Urban, is known to have ties to British intelligence. This proves the book is meant as a substitute of Sergei Skripal’s testimony in a televised live appearance as a key witness in the Salisbury incident,” the spokesman told Sputnik.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Skripal a “scumbag” and a “traitor” to his homeland.
"As for the Skripals and so on, this spy scandal has been fostered artificially. I am looking through some information sources and your colleagues are pushing the thought that Mr. Skripal is almost some kind of human rights activist. He is just a spy, a traitor to the motherland … Imagine: you are a citizen of your own country and all of a sudden there is a person who betrays his motherland. How would you treat him? He is just a scumbag, that is all," the president said.
With the investigation underway, the British government was quick to accuse Russia of the poisoning – something which Kremlin firmly denied, adding that London hadn’t provided any facts to substantiate the claims.
Even though medics initially stated that the pair was in critical condition and might never fully recover, both Skripals emerged from over a month-long coma and were discharged from hospital. While Sergei has been avoiding the public eye, his daughter gave an exclusive interview to Reuters after being released from the medical facility.