LONDON — The Latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Britain (all times local):
Britain's Home Office says it has rejected a visa application for the niece of a former Russian spy poisoned by a nerve agent in the southwestern city of Salisbury.
The authorities said in a statement Friday that Viktoria Skripal's visa application was denied on the grounds that it "did not comply with the immigration rules." It did not elaborate.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4 and have been in a British hospital ever since.
Viktoria told the AP she had been told to come to the British Embassy in Moscow on Friday afternoon but the embassy emailed her to say the appointment has been cancelled.
British doctors say former spy Sergei Skripal is no longer in critical condition, a month after he was poisoned with a nerve agent.
Dr. Christine Blanshard, the medical director at Salisbury District Hospital, says the 66-year-old "is responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition."
The former Russian spy and his daughter Yulia have been hospitalized since they were found unconscious on a park bench March 4. British authorities say they were exposed to a military-grade nerve agent and have blamed Russia.
Russia has denied responsibility for the poisoning.
The hospital says Yulia Skripal,33, is conscious and in stable condition.
Russia's foreign minister is urging Britain to produce its evidence in the ex-spy poisoning case.
Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Britain must "honestly and openly ... put all the facts on the table."
Britain blamed Russia for the March 4 nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the city of Salisbury. Russia has fervently denied the claims and accused Britain of waging a deliberate defamation campaign.
Lavrov, speaking on a trip to Belarus, said British officials have engaged in "frantic and convulsive efforts to find arguments to support their indefensible position" instead of producing evidence.
He said that Britain and its Western allies are wrong if they expect Russia to "confess to all deadly sins" it didn't commit and "play by their rules."
A relative of a former Russian spy and his daughter who were poisoned in Britain says she has not heard from them since a call from the daughter earlier this week, but she is certain that call was authentic.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in a British hospital after being poisoned with a military grade nerve agent. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.
Russian state television on Thursday played back a recording of what they said was a phone call from Yulia Skripal to her cousin Viktoria, who lives in Russia. There was no explanation how the call was recorded especially because Viktoria is heard on the call expressing surprise at hearing her cousin, who was in critical condition until a week ago.
Viktoria Skripal told The Associated Press on Friday that she has no doubt that it was Yulia who called, and that she has not heard from her since. Viktoria, who works as a chief accountant in the city of Yaroslavl, explained that the call was recorded because she has an app on her phone that she uses to keep track of all the calls she makes for work.
She said she was invited to come to the British Embassy on Friday afternoon, supposedly to pick up her visa, but a contact at the embassy has emailed her to say that the appointment has been canceled and that the decision on her visa application has not been made yet.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman is questioning why British officials have incinerated the pets found at the poisoned ex-spy's home.
Maria Zakharova said on Facebook Friday that the two guinea pigs and a cat who lived in former double agent Sergei Skripal's home were important evidence.
Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the guinea pigs were found dead at Skripal's home after it was sealed off for investigations. It said the cat was also found "in a distressed state and a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanize the animal to alleviate its suffering."
Britain blamed Russia for the March 4 nerve agent attack on Skripal and his daughter. Russia vehemently denied the accusations and accused Britain of waging a deliberate defamation campaign.
The British government says two guinea pigs and a cat were victims of the Salisbury poisoning.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says the two rodents were found dead at the home of Sergei Skripal after it was sealed off for investigations.
It said Friday that a cat was also found "in a distressed state and a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanize the animal to alleviate its suffering."
The former Russian spy and his daughter Yulia have been hospitalized since they were found unconscious on a park bench March 4. British authorities say they were exposed to a military-grade nerve agent, and have blamed Russia.
Russia vehemently denies responsibility.
On Thursday, Russia's U.N. ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Britain had not yet mentioned the fate of the pets, which he said was an important piece of evidence.
The international furor over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter intensified, with Russia warning Britain that it was "playing with fire."
At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Thursday, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia claimed that Russia was the victim of a hasty, sloppy and ill-intentioned defamation campaign by London and its allies.
Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. In response, more than two dozen Western allies including Britain, the U.S. and NATO have ordered out over 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity. Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement in the nerve agent attack and expelled an equal number of envoys. The diplomatic turmoil has hit lows unseen even at the height of the Cold War.
Moscow assumes "with a high degree of probability" that the intelligence services of other countries are likely responsible for the incident, Nebenzia said at the U.N.