A court in Saint Petersburg on Friday sentenced a Russian historian and Napoleon enthusiast to 12-and-a-half-years in jail for murdering and dismembering his young student lover in 2019.
The trial, which spurred activists to voice growing anger over domestic abuse in Russia, began in June after delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Friday, Oleg Sokolov, a history lecturer who received France’s Legion d’Honneur in 2003, came to the courtroom in a grey suit and a white shirt, an AFP journalist following the trial reported.
Sokolov paced back and forth in a glass cell as Judge Yulia Maximenko sentenced him to ‘12 years and six months in a strict regime penal colony’ on charges of murder and the illegal possession of firearms.
‘He was aware of his actions at the time of the crime,’ Maximenko said as she read out the verdict, adding that the intent to murder arose ‘suddenly’.
Sokolov was arrested in November 2019 after he was hauled out of the freezing Moika River in Saint Petersburg while drunk and carrying a backpack containing a woman’s arms.
The historian pleaded guilty to the charges of murdering 24-year-old Anastasia Yeshchenko, but said he committed the crime in the heat of the moment during an argument with his former student and lover.
Sokolov’s lawyer Sergei Lukyanov said the defence ‘does not agree’ with the sentence but will decide whether to appeal after receiving a copy of the verdict.
Last week the court heard the final arguments in the case and prosecutors requested a 15-year-term.
Yeshchenko’s parents attended the sentencing on Friday.
Their lawyer Alexandra Baksheyeva told reporters that, even though ‘nothing can bring their daughter back’, the family does not intend to appeal the verdict to request a harsher sentence.
Sokolov taught history at Saint Petersburg State University, President Vladimir Putin’s alma mater, and was close to the authorities.
The decorated historian authored several books on Napoleon Bonaparte and often led historical reenactments of the French emperor’s 1812 Russian campaign.
The gruesome murder scandalised Russia after many of his students said Sokolov had exhibited inappropriate behaviour in the past and demanded that management at the university be investigated.
Every year, nearly 16.5 million women across Russia fall victim to domestic violence, according to activists.
However, efforts to lobby for a specialised law against violence and protect victims have failed.
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