The niece of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal says he and his daughter, Yulia, have only a slim chance of surviving a nerve- agent attack in England that became a major international incident.
Viktoria Skripal told the BBC's Russian service on March 28 that the prognosis for the pair "really isn't good," more than three weeks they were exposed to what the British government says was a military-grade nerve agent called Novichok.
"Out of 99 percent I have maybe 1 percent of hope," Viktoria Skripal told the BBC. "Whatever it was has given them a very small chance of survival." She said that even if they did pull through, "they're going to be invalids for the rest of their lives."
Viktoria Skripal, who lives in Russia, said her uncle's elderly mother had not been told about the incident, which led to a response that has included the expulsion of over 150 Russian diplomats from some 30 countries and NATO -- the largest collective expulsion ever.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter were found slumped on a bench in in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4, a day after she arrived from Moscow to visit her father, and remain in critical condition.
British police said on March 28 that they believe they were first exposed to the nerve agent at the front door of Skripal's home in Salisbury, where investigators found the highest concentrations of the deadly chemical substance.
Police said they had "identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to date, as being on the front door of the address."
Russia has denied involvement in the poisonings, and on March 28 suggested that Britain's own spy services might have staged the attack.
Aleksandr Lukashevich, the Russian envoy at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said late on March 28 that the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western governments created "a dangerous precedent of a collective punishment of a nation whose guilt hasn't been proven."
Luxembourg, Slovakia, and Malta joined in the united Western front against Moscow late on March 28, with all three states saying they were recalling their ambassadors to Russia for consultations.
While the three states' actions stopped short of expelling diplomats, as other countries have done, Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said that recalling an ambassador was a serious diplomatic act.
"In 25 years, we have never recalled our ambassador to Moscow," he told Slovak state news agency TASR. Slovakia has maintained friendly relations with Russia since joining the European Union.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl told ORF-2 television on March 28 that Vienna also will not expel Russian diplomats or recall its ambassador to Russia. But she said Austria supported the EU's decision to recall its ambassador from Russia and has expressed its solidarity with Britain in other ways.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia underestimated the international response to what was the latest in a series of killings or attempted killings of Russian expatriates in Britain.
"These expulsions represent a moment when a feeling has suddenly crystallized, when years of vexation and provocation have worn the collective patience to a breaking point, and when across the world -- across three continents -- there are countries who are willing to say enough is enough," Johnson said.
Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia's Federation Council -- the upper house of parliament -- said that Moscow will respond to the expulsions in kind.
"Without a doubt, Russia, as is diplomatic practice, will respond symmetrically and observe parity when it comes to the number of diplomats," she told reporters.
Asked about a response to the U.S. expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats who the U.S. government says were intelligence officers, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that "all options are on the table."
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer imprisoned by Moscow after being convicted of passing on information about Russian agents in various European countries, came to Britain in a 2010 spy swap.
He and his daughter were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury on March 4, a day after she arrived from Moscow to visit her father.