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Russian historian jailed for dismembering partner


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image captionAnastasia Yeschchenko was described as a brilliant student

A Russian historian who admitted shooting and dismembering his student partner in St Petersburg has been jailed for 12 and a half years.

Oleg Sokolov, 63, an expert on the Napoleonic wars, pleaded guilty to the murder of Anastasia Yeshchenko, 24.

He was found drunk in a river in November 2019 with Ms Yeshchenko’s severed arms in his backpack.

Women’s rights activists say the case shows indifference towards harassment and domestic violence in Russia.

An online petition with more than 7,500 signatures accused St Petersburg State University of ignoring previous complaints from students against Sokolov.

He has now been dismissed from the university and from another academic post in France.

In court Sokolov admitted shooting Ms Yeshchenko four times with a sawn-off shotgun, before chopping up her body with a saw and kitchen knife. A stun pistol was also found in the backpack.

Police later found other body parts further downstream and in Sokolov’s flat.

He is said to have planned to get rid of the body before publicly taking his own life while dressed as Napoleon.

media captionOleg Sokolov broke down in court and confessed to the killing

Ms Yeshchenko had moved to St Petersburg to study from Krasnodar region in southern Russia, and was a postgraduate student at the time of her death.

“She was quiet, sweet and always the ideal student,” an acquaintance told Russia’s RIA news agency in November 2019.

Russian media reported that her mother is a police lieutenant colonel and her father a school PE teacher. A brother once played as a goalkeeper for the national junior football team.

A lawyer for the Yeshchenko family, Alexandra Baksheeva, said “no jail term would bring [her] back” but that they accepted the court’s decision.

Napoleonic connection

Sokolov had been living with Ms Yeshchenko for at least three years. He organised Napoleonic re-enactments – in which he played the part of Napoleon and she also took part.

He wrote dozens of historical research papers, some of them co-authored with Ms Yeshchenko.

She had moved from the southern Russian region of Krasnodar to St Petersburg and was a postgraduate student at the time of her death.

According to students quoted by AFP, Sokolov enjoyed speaking French and did impressions of Napoleon. They said he called Ms Yeshchenko “Josephine”, after Napoleon’s consort, and asked to be addressed as “Sire”.

In court Sokolov alleged that Ms Yeshchenko had attacked him with a knife during a blazing row. It was then that he shot her.

Russian media say he also blamed persecution by an academic rival for his actions.

Ms Yeshchenko’s parents rejected his version of events.

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