The daughter of an ex-Russian agent poisoned alongside her father in the UK “hasn’t done anything to deserve” being targeted, a friend says.
Police are investigating the attempted murder of Yulia and Sergei Skripal after both were found unconscious in Salisbury, Wiltshire on Sunday.
Her childhood friend Irina Petrova told the BBC she remembered the Skripals as the “perfect family”.
But she thought people might be afraid to speak publicly about the pair.
“I’m starting to get scared,” she said. “No one wants to speak – even her relatives”.
Ms Skripal, 33, and her 66-year-old father are being treated in hospital after being exposed to a nerve agent, nearly a week after being found slumped on a shopping centre bench in the city.
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Home Secretary Amber Rudd is to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, Cobra, as the investigation into the attempted murder of the pair continues.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said it was “a very serious incident with horrendous outcomes” and the government was prepared to “respond with the full force of the UK’s resources”.
“Someone has come onto our soil… has recklessly, brazenly, committed what looks like a very nasty crime, with a nerve agent prohibited by most international laws… and has potentially put lots of people at risk,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
When asked if Mr Skripal worked for British intelligence services, he said it was a long-standing government policy to keep such details secret, “not least [for] the security of individuals”.
Ms Petrova, who knows Ms Skripal from school, said relatives “don’t want to talk”, adding: “There aren’t many of them left.”
Ms Skripal, who was visiting her father from Moscow, has worked for multinationals, including Nike and PepsiCo, according to friends.
Her mother, uncle and elder brother have all died in recent years.
Life in UK
Ms Skripal lived in the UK for five years, after her father was given refuge there in 2010, but “wasn’t drawn to England”, her friend said.
Ms Petrova said she enjoyed her time in the UK, where she passed her driving test and intended to apply for citizenship but later changed her mind.
“She told me she liked everything there,” she said. “They had an amazing place, and amazing house.”
She said Ms Skripal, who studied Geography at Moscow State Humanities University, moved back there to be with her long-term boyfriend, despite easily adjusting to life in Britain.
Ms Skripal had an “excellent” relationship with her father, she added.
Ex-Russian spy Mr Skripal was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006, before being released in a spy swap four years later.
Ms Petrova said Ms Skripal “never shared her problems” – even when her father’s arrest was shown on Russian TV.
She said “everyone was shocked” at the news, adding that Ms Skripal was a “normal kind of person”.
The graves of her brother, Alexander Skripal, and mother, Liudmila Skripal, at a Salisbury cemetery have been cordoned off as part of the police investigation.
Alexander Skripal died aged 43 last July in St Petersburg from liver failure, and her mother died of cancer in 2012.