Two guinea pigs belonging to Sergei Skripal died and his cat was put down after the Salisbury nerve agent attack, the government has revealed.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the dead guinea pigs and a “distressed” cat were discovered when a vet was able to enter Skripal’s home, which had been sealed off during the police investigation. Defra said it believed the guinea pigs had died of thirst.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in hospital more than a month after the attack on 4 March. In its latest update, NHS England said the former Russian spy’s condition was critical but stable.
On Thursday, Yulia Skripal released a statement through the Metropolitan police in which said she was getting stronger by the day.
A war of words has continued between Britain and Russia over claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the attack using the nerve agent novichok.
On Thursday, in heated exchanges at the UN security council, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissing the allegation that Russia was behind the poisoning as “absurd”, questioned what had happened to Sergei Skripal’s two cats and two guinea pets.
“What happened to these animals? Why doesn’t anyone mention them? Their condition is also an important piece of evidence,” he said.
The highest concentration of novichok was found on the front door of Skripal’s home.
The Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, had also raised the fate of the pets. “Where are the animals? What state are they in?” she asked on Wednesday.
“Why has the British side … not mentioned this fact? We are talking about living organisms, and if toxic agents were used then living organisms must have suffered.”
The Sun reported that Skripal’s black cat, Nash Van Drake, was put down after being tested at the Ministry of Defence research laboratory at Porton Down, where he was found to be severely malnourished.
A Defra spokeswoman said a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the cat to alleviate its suffering, and that it was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.
She did not mention the second cat referred to by Nebenzia.