The former Russian spy who was found slumped in an English city after being poisoned is no longer in critical condition and is "improving rapidly," the hospital treating him said Friday.
It was the first news of Sergei Skripal's health improving since the 66-year-old ex-double agent and his daughter Yulia were found poisoned on a bench on March 4 in Salisbury, southwest England.
The affair has sparked a bitter diplomatic crisis between London and Moscow and prompted a wave of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats between Russia and the West.
Skripal "is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition,"according to Salisbury District Hospital director Christine Blanshard.
As for his daughter, 33, "her strength is growing daily and she can look forward to the day when she is well enough to leave the hospital," Blanshard added.
Britain's interior ministry on Friday rejected a visa application by Sergei Skripal's niece to visit the country, because it "did not comply with the immigration rules," the Home Office said.
Viktoria Skripal told Britain's Sky News television: "I was sure that this would happen.
"They (the British) must have something to hide."
Russia's embassy in London said the decision was "regrettable and worrying" and "doesn't hold water."
Britain blames Russia for the poisoning of the Skripals, a charge the Kremlin furiously denies.
A British Foreign Office spokesperson praised medical staff continuing to treat the pair and noted they are "likely to have ongoing medical needs."
Its statement added: "This was attempted murder using an illegal chemical weapon that we know Russia possesses."
The first public comments by Yulia Skripal since the poisoning emerged on Thursday.
"My strength is growing daily," she said in a statement released through the police.
Scientists said the Skripals had likely been treated with Atropine, a drug used to counter the effects of nerve agents, and marvelled at their partial recovery given the circumstances.
"As far as we know from the literature, there is no specific antidote for Novichok," Ralf Trapp, an expert on chemical weapons, told AFP, referring to a batch of nerve agents allegedly developed by Moscow in the Soviet era.
"What you basically do in such cases is stabilise the life functions of the body - breathing, heartbeats - and give Atropine to counter-balance the symptoms, hoping that the body will recover," he added.