Russian court arrests St Petersburg professor for murder of 24-year-old student girlfriend

The Napoleonic era historian Oleg Sokolov confessed to shooting and sawing the body of his girlfriend and former student Anastasia Yeshchenko following an argument last week

Anastasia Yeshchenko
Anastasia Yeshchenko Social Media

A Russian court on Monday arrested an eminent history Professor for the gruesome murder of a 24-year-old girlfriend and former student and ordered him to be held in custody pending trial. Oleg Sokolov, author of prominent books on the Napoleonic era and professor at the St Petersburg State University confessed to killing his girlfriend Anastasia Yeshchenko, as per the Associated Press.

He confessed to shooting Yeshchenko to death on November 7 in his apartment and dismembering her body. The case came to light after he was detained by officials on Saturday. The 63-year-old professor was pulled from Moika River with a backpack containing two severed arms. Yeshchenko's remains were found in the river on Monday, Interfax news agency reported.

Admitting that he killed her the 63-year-old said, "I am devastated by what has happened, I repent," Sokolov was quoted as saying in court. He also stated that he killed her after she "attacked him with a knife first" as she went "mad" when Sokolov mentioned his children from a previous marriage, as reported by AFP.

The professor confessed to shooting her four times during the argument and later sawing her head, arms and legs, as per TASS news. Reports suggest that he had planned to dispose of her body and later commit suicide at the Peter and Paul Fortress monument while dressed as Napolean. Yeshchenko had graduated from the St. Petersburg State University three years ago.

Woman murdered
Woman murdered (Representational picture) Pixabay

The 24-year-old who had been living with the historian for a few years had called her brother moments before she was killed. Russian state television reported that she was last heard crying on the phone call and told him that she had an argument with Sokolov and left the apartment but needed to go back and pick up her things.

Having received France's Legion d'Honneur in 2003, Sokolov was known for his works on French emperor Napolean Bonaparte and even participated in historical re-enactments of the Napoleanic war in Russia. Reports suggest that he met Yeshchenko in college after she signed up for his French history classes. Yeshchenko and he had co-authored a number of studies and both were reported to have been fond of dressing in period costumes.

Known for his eccentric personality and fascination with the Napoleonic era, the incident shed light on another case of a female student who was abused by Sokolov and prompted accusations that the university protected the professor and took no action.

Highlighting the issue of harassment and abuse of female students in academic circles, Alyona Sadikova, head of the Moscow-based Kitezh women's crisis centre said "This case highlighted the impunity of abusers in society," she was quoted as saying to AFP. Following the nation-wide outrage, the University said that Sokolov was dismissed over the "monstrous crime" and issued condolences.