DID YOUR COUN­TRY KILL MY GIRL­FRIEND?

» Dra­matic mo­ment novi­chok vic­tim con­fronts Putin’s am­bas­sador to UK » Rus­sians deny blame, say­ing their nerve agent would’ve killed ev­ery­one

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Front Page - PA­TRICK HILL

POI­SONED Char­lie Row­ley was yes­ter­day told by Vladimir Putin’s man in London that Rus­sia wasn’t be­hind the novi­chok at­tacks in Salisbury – be­cause peo­ple SUR­VIVED.

Char­lie said Am­bas­sador Alexan­der Yakovenko told him Rus­sian novi­chok “would have killed ev­ery­one”.

Their 90-minute meet­ing at the £15mil­lion Rus­sian Em­bassy in Kens­ing­ton came af­ter Mr Yakovenko agreed to an­swer Char­lie’s ques­tions over the death of his part­ner Dawn Sturgess, 44.

She han­dled novi­chok dis­guised as scent and died seven days later. Char­lie, 45, han­dled the nerve agent too but sur­vived – af­ter 10 days in a coma.

Char­lie told the Sun­day Mir­ror: “I went along to ask them ‘Why did your coun­try kill my girl­friend?’

“But I didn’t re­ally get any an­swers. I just got Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda. I liked 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.

“The am­bas­sador kept say­ing the sub­stance def­i­nitely wasn’t the novi­chok they had made be­cause if it was it would have killed ev­ery­one.

WASHED

“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. He said Rus­sia only have small amounts of novi­chok be­cause they use it as an an­ti­dote and don’t pro­duce it any more.

“He said the only coun­tries that pro­duce it now are the Czech Repub­lic and Amer­ica. I asked if he re­ally thought Bri­tain had car­ried out the at­tack.

“He said he doesn’t know be­cause the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment won’t tell him any­thing, but Amer­ica is the only place he thinks the novi­chok could have come from.

“He said Por­ton Down (Bri­tain’s mil­i­tary test­ing base) have it too.”

Dawn died on July 8, a week af­ter Char­lie gave her what he thought was a bot­tle of scent, found in a char­ity bin in Salisbury, Wilts.

It turned out to be novi­chok, first pro­duced in the 1970s – by Rus­sia.

Two sus­pects, Alexan­der Mishkin and Ana­toliy Chep­iga, both 39 and from Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence unit the GRU, are be­lieved to have dumped the bot­tle.

They were caught on CCTV in Salisbury last March – when ex-Rus­sian spy Sergei Skri­pal, 67, and his daugh­ter Yu­lia, 34, were poi­soned. The Skri­pals sur­vived and the UK has charged Mishkin and Chep­iga in their ab­sence.

Char­lie added: “I asked why the sus­pects haven’t spo­ken to po­lice and the am­bas­sador said ‘the

Bri­tish po­lice never asked to in­ter­view them’. I think he’s very good at talk­ing, but he was speak­ing a lot of Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda. He said, ‘If you’ve got a lab and the ma­te­ri­als you could make it any­where’.

“He kept on say­ing the Bri­tish won’t talk to him so he can’t tell us any­thing that he hasn’t read in the me­dia, so he can only give his view. He’s promised to email me af­ter he speaks to Pres­i­dent Putin and if he hears any new in­for­ma­tion.” Char­lie also asked if he could meet di­rectly with Putin, left. The am­bas­sador said he would pass

the re­quest on,

He was try­ing to say Rus­sia was not re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack but I don’t be­lieve him

CHAR­LIE ROW­LEY AF­TER MEET­ING RUS­SIAN AM­BAS­SADOR YES­TER­DAY

adding: “Where would you like to meet him?”

Char­lie was left in a coma for 10 days, suf­fered strokes, con­tracted menin­gi­tis and now has a pace­maker.

He has loss of eye­sight, fears he will be left to­tally blind and has had aw­ful flash­backs which left him sui­ci­dal.

Char­lie said Mr Yakovenko “seemed gen­uinely con­cerned” about him, but added: “He hasn’t changed my view that Rus­sia are re­spon­si­ble.

“I told him how my health is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. He was try­ing to tell me Rus­sia wasn’t re­spon­si­ble, but I don’t be­lieve him.

“He said it was a bit strange Dawn was cre­mated and so was Sergei Skri­pal’s cat, as it stopped tests be­ing car­ried out on the bod­ies. But I said to him, ‘It was a toxic poi­son’. He seemed to find that hard to take in.”

Char­lie, 45, was ac­com­pa­nied at the em­bassy by his brother Matthew, 47 – af­ter the Sun­day Mir­ror helped ar­range the meet­ing.

As they sat across a ta­ble in the op­u­lent meet­ing room Mr Yakovenko handed Char­lie a 51-page dossier ti­tled Salisbury: Unan­swered Ques­tions.

The doc­u­ment ac­cuses Bri­tain of fail­ing to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion and cites sup­posed in­ac­cu­ra­cies and in­con­sis­ten­cies in the UK Gov­ern­ment’s ver­sion of events.

The dossier of­fers “sin­cere con­do­lences over the tragic death of Dawn Sturgess, who has be­come an in­no­cent vic­tim of po­lit­i­cal games”. The Sun­day Mir­ror told pre­vi­ously how Dawn’s son Ewan Hope, 20, had writ­ten to Pres­i­dent Putin ask­ing him to give up his mother’s sus­pected killers for ques­tion­ing.

Char­lie added: “I asked the am­bas­sador more than a dozen ques­tions in all, in­clud­ing why the sus­pects aren’t speak­ing to Bri­tish po­lice, if he ac­knowl­edges they’re GRU of­fi­cers and how he can deny Rus­sia are re­spon­si­ble when they pro­duced the novi­chok – and if he re­ally thinks Bri­tain car­ried out the at­tacks.

“He an­swered ev­ery ques­tion, but at times he gave me some stupid an­swers re­ally.

“I would like to place on record that I am ap­pre­cia­tive to him for meet­ing me and I thought he was very pleas­ant. I just think he has to say what he has to say in his po­si­tion in the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.”

Mr Yakovenko spoke to the Mir­ror and Rus­sian me­dia af­ter the meet­ing.

He said: “Thank you for ar­rang­ing this. I was able to an­swer all of their ques­tions to the best of my abil­ity. The only one I had dif­fi­culty with was the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause the Bri­tish Gov­ern­ment will not an­swer our ques­tions.

“It was quite a friendly event and I en­joyed the con­ver­sa­tion. It was an or­di­nary con­ver­sa­tion be­tween friends. There were no bad feel­ings. He just wanted to know the truth.

“We were on the same page, that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­port needs to be pub­lished. It is im­por­tant for Rus­sia, but also for Char­lie Row­ley.

“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.”

I’m grate­ful for the meet­ing but some of the an­swers he gave were ridicu­lous

VIC­TIM CHAR­LIE SPEAK­ING TO THE MIR­ROR AF­TER SEE­ING AM­BAS­SADOR

pa­[email protected]­ror.co.uk

TO­DAY we salute the courage of Novi­chok vic­tim Char­lie Row­ley. It took a lot for him to go to the Rus­sian Em­bassy yes­ter­day.

He was among peo­ple whose coun­try­men killed Char­lie’s girl­friend Dawn Sturgess and damn near killed him.

And the man he went to meet, Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Alexan­der Yakovenko, is a slick diplo­mat trained to lie for his coun­try.

All Char­lie wants is the truth. An­swers to the ques­tions which have been tor­ment­ing him ever since he and Dawn were poi­soned nine months ago.

But most of all, Char­lie wants the men who did this brought to book. He wants the Rus­sians to al­low Bri­tish po­lice to in­ter­view them. Char­lie ac­cepts that’s never likely to hap­pen. But we ap­plaud him for try­ing.

Mr Yakovenko de­nied Rus­sian re­spon­si­bil­ity. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? He sug­gested Amer­ica may have been be­hind the killing. Or the Czech Repub­lic. Or Por­ton Down.

Pull the other one, Mr Am­bas­sador.

Char­lie would now like to speak to Mr Yakovenko’s line man­ager, Vladimir Putin him­self.

As­ton­ish­ingly, Mr Yakovenko said he would talk to the Pres­i­dent per­son­ally to see if it could be ar­ranged. Mr Yakovenko, we will take you at your word.

POI­SONED Dawn Sturgess FACE TO FACE Novi­chok vic­tim Char­lie Row­ley meets Rus­sian am­bas­sador Alexan­der Yakovenko yes­ter­day

AT EM­BASSY Char­lie with his brother Matthew

TAR­GETED Sergei Skri­pal & daugh­ter Yu­lia

LEADER Putin

Mr Yakovenko meets Char­lie and his brother Matthew, cen­tre, yes­ter­day THE VIC­TIM FACE TO FACE LOCK­DOWN Foren­sic squad in Salisbury probe Con­tact with novi­chok killed Dawn

SUS­PECTS GRU of­fi­cers Mishkin and Chep­iga

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