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  1. ITV Report

Yulia Skripal 'improving rapidly and no longer critical' following Novichok nerve agent attack

Yulia Skripal is no longer in a critical condition and is now described as stable, more than three weeks after she was poisoned along with her father, Sergei, by the nerve agent Novichok.

Salisbury NHS Trust said the 33-year-old is "improving rapidly", but her 66-year-old father remains in a "critical but stable" condition.

The BBC reports separate sources have verified Ms Skripal is both conscious and talking.

Doctors said Ms Skripal, "has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day".

The news on Ms Skripal comes as police investigating the attack placed a cordon around a children's play area near Mr Skripal's home as a precautionary measure.

Dr Christine Blanshard, medical director for Salisbury District Hospital, said: "I'm pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal.

"She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day.

"I want to take this opportunity to once again thank the staff of Salisbury District Hospital for delivering such high quality care to these patients over the last few weeks.

"I am very proud both of our front-line staff and all those who support them."

Yulia Skirpal is said to be 'responding well to treatment'. Credit: PA

On Wednesday, police announced that they believe the pair first came into contact with the nerve agent at former Russian spy, Mr Skripal's home in Salisbury.

As a result of detailed forensic and scientific examination, specialist detectives identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent Novichok on Mr Skripal's front door.

In a statement, Scotland Yard said: "Officers investigating the attempted murders of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal are continuing to focus their enquiries around the Skripals' home address.

"As a precautionary measure, they have this afternoon placed a cordon around a children's play area at Montgomery Gardens, near the Skripals' home."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: "I would like to reassure residents that we have placed the cordons around the park, and officers will be searching it, as a precautionary measure.

"I would like to reiterate Public Health England's advice that the risk to the public is low. Anyone with concerns regarding the ongoing police activity in Salisbury is encouraged to speak to the local officers or PCSOs at the locations, who will be happy to offer reassurance."

The investigation into the poisoning could take many months. Credit: PA

Around 250 counter terrorism detectives continue to work around the clock on the investigation, supported by a range of experts and partners.

Police were called by members of the public on March 4 after the pair Mr were spotted slumped on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury city centre.

Since then officers have begun trawling through more than 5,000 hours of CCTV and examining over 1,350 exhibits that have been seized.

Around 500 witnesses have also been identified and hundreds of statements taken.

It is believed that Novichok nerve agent was applied to Sergei Skripal's front door. Credit: PA

In the wake of the incident, the British government expelled 23 Russian diplomats.

In retaliation, the Kremlin announced it would be sending home 23 British officials home.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson has accused Russia of trying to conceal "the needle of truth in a haystack of lies" over the poisoning.

In a major foreign policy speech on Wednesday night, Mr Johnson said the targeted attack had crystallised a "global wave of revulsion" against Russia and that is should act as a wake-up call for Moscow.

More than 20 countries have now expelled Russian diplomats over the Skripal poisoning despite the Kremlin continuing to deny any involvement.

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, a police officer who was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent while working on the investigation, was discharged from hospital last week.