The hospital has said that Skripal is no longer in critical condition. Meanwhile, the US announced a raft of new economic sanctions against Moscow.

Sergei SkripalSkripal in Salisbury before the attack

Salisbury District Hospital in the UK announced on Friday that Sergei Skripal was “responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition.” The poisoned former Russian spy has been in the hospital for over a month after being poisoned.

Read moreNovichok nerve agent – Russia’s dangerous new poison

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found severely ill on a park bench in Salisbury after being exposed to a nerve agent, which investigators say was smeared on the door handle of their house. Yulia Skripal has also begun to recover.

The sophistication of the attack on Skripal has led Western governments to blame Moscow for the incident, resulting in the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from a slew of countries across Europe and North America. However, the British military facility analyzing the substance has stated that it cannot prove unequivocally where it came from or that the Kremlin was responsible, resulting in no small amount of embarrassment for the administration of Prime Minister Theresa May.

US slaps sactions on Russian oligarchs, government officials 

Separately, the US Treasury announced a list of economic sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, 17 government officials as well as businesses. The move “generally” prohibits US persons or entities from dealing with the people and firms on the sanctions list.

The sanctions were not in response to any one activity, but rather in general the “malign” activity of Moscow.

Read moreWestern sanctions on Russia: Lots of noise and little impact

The targets of the sanctions mostly involve Russia’s energy and financial sectors. Among those hit were Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, Putin’s son-in-law Kirill Shamalov, aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, and Andrey Kostin, who leads the nation’s second-largest bank, VTB, which is state-controlled.

“The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites,” said US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  “The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.  Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”

The Kremlin responded by saying that the individuals and companies affected would receive extra support from the government, if necessary. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev added that this would not deter Moscow from seeking contacts with the US.

Watch video02:30

Russia says UK is ‘playing with fire’

cw, es/ng (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

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