Novichok victim confronts Russian ambassador about Salisbury attack: ‘Why did your country kill my girlfriend?’

Charlie Rowley accuses ambassador of feeding him ‘Russian propaganda’ in response

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 07 April 2019 16:23 BST
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A British victim of the Salisbury novichok attack said he was fed “propaganda” when he questioned Russia’s ambassador about the death of his partner.

Charlie Rowley said he “didn’t really get any answers” at his meeting with Alexander Yakovenko in London.

He added that he still believes Russia was responsible for the attack that ultimately claimed the life of his innocent girlfriend Dawn Sturgess.

The pair were exposed to novichok after coming into contact with a perfume bottle believed to have been used in the poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia last March and then discarded.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, while Mr Rowley was left in a coma for 10 days and still suffers from poor health due to his exposure to the nerve agent. The Skripals also survived.

Mr Rowley said Mr Yakovenko seemed “genuinely concerned” about his situation during the 90-minute discussion but he was not convinced by the explanation for the attack.

“I went along to ask them ‘Why did your country kill my girlfriend?’, but I didn’t really get any answers,” he told the Sunday Mirror. “I like the ambassador but I thought some of what he said trying to justify Russia not being responsible was ridiculous. I’m glad I met him and feel I did find out some things I didn’t know before. But I still think Russia carried out the attack.”

He said Mr Yakovenko claimed the novichok could not be from Russia because it was not strong enough.

“The ambassador kept saying the substance definitely wasn’t the novichok they had made because if it was it would have killed everyone,” said Mr Rowley. “I said, ‘Well, my girlfriend did die, it’s only because I washed it off that I’m still here’. He didn’t know what to say to that.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Yakovenko said he and Mr Rowley had a friendly conversation and both of them wanted a report into the investigation to be published.

“It is important for Russia, but also for Charlie Rowley,” he said. ”I’ve seen a normal person who has really suffered a lot and who has suffered a tragedy in his life. If he asked for it, I would give him support.”

Mr Rowley also asked if he could meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin directly, the newspaper reported, to which the ambassador said he would pass on the request.

Theresa May tours Salisbury one year after Novichok attack

In September, Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service said there was sufficient evidence to charge two Russians – known by their aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – with offences including conspiracy to murder over the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

They are accused of being members of the Russian military intelligence service the GRU.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement, with Mr Putin claiming the two suspects were civilians.

The pair were widely mocked for claiming, in an interview with the state-funded Russian network RT last year, they were tourists visiting Salisbury.

The men said they were visiting the town to see the “internationally famous” cathedral.

A spokesperson for Theresa May described the claims as “lies and blatant fabrications” and “an insult to the public’s intelligence”.

Agencies contributed to this report

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