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Niece Of Poisoned Russian Ex-Spy Seeks Political Office In Yaroslavl


Viktoria Skripal, niece of poisoned former Russian spy Sergei Skripal

The niece of a former Russian spy who was poisoned in Britain earlier this year in what became a major diplomatic incident has said she is running for a seat in a regional Russian legislature.

Viktoria Skripal, 46, wants to become a lawmaker in the central Russian region of Yaroslavl, which borders the Moscow region, as a representative of the social-democratic A Just Russia party, she told dpa by phone on July 3.

Her uncle, Sergei Skripal, 67, and cousin Yulia Skripal, 34, were poisoned with a nerve toxin in southern England in March.

Britain's leadership said the crime was "highly likely" perpetrated by Russia, and expelled two dozen Russian diplomats in retaliation.

Britain's allies joined the diplomatic expulsion, with the United States expelling 60 envoys. Russia retaliated by ordering out equal numbers of diplomats from the countries allied with Britain.

Viktoria Skripal criticized Britain's case against Russia as "politically tinged" and questioned the independence of London's investigation.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, was convicted of selling Russian state secrets to Britain in 2006. He was traded to Britain in a high-profile spy swap four years later.

The Russian government has condemned him as a traitor, but Viktoria Skripal was hesitant to say whether Russia could be responsible for the poisonings, which sent both of her relatives to the hospital where they were critically ill for weeks before recovering.

"I do not blame either country," Viktoria Skripal told dpa. "I am not an investigator."

Yulia Skripal has said in a video message that she would like to return to Russia after staying in England for a time to help nurse her father back to health -- something Viktoria said she supported.

Born in Soviet Lithuania, Viktoria has lived in Yaroslavl for more than three decades. She told dpa she wanted to improve schools and resolve environmental issues such as pollution in the Volga River.

She also adamantly opposes the Kremlin's plans to raise the pension age, saying the government does not have the right to do so before resolving other quality-of-life issues.

A spokeswoman for A Just Russia's regional branch supported Viktoria as a candidate, saying she had an "active civic position."

She currently is a supporter of the party and plans to join, the spokeswoman said.

Viktoria told dpa she opposed the ruling United Russia party, but is fond of the communists. "I really like the Communist Party," she said.

A Just Russia is similar to the Communist Party, but is younger and better positioned to elicit support from the country's youth, Viktoria said. "Our aspirations aligned," she said.

With reporting by AP and dpa
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