Calls for abuse probe as Russian historian in court for grisly murder

Saint Petersburg: A Russian historian who confessed to murdering and dismembering his ex-student lover was due in court on Monday as calls grew for an investigation into his alleged abuse of women students.
The case of prominent Napoleon expert Oleg Sokolov drew fresh attention to violence against women in Russia, including in academic circles, which critics said authorities were not taking seriously.
Sokolov, a 63-year-old who taught history at Saint Petersburg University, confessed to murdering his 24-year-old lover and former student and dismembering her body.
He was detained after being hauled out of the icy Moika River on Saturday as he tried to dispose of the woman’s arms.
A Saint Petersburg court was to decide on Monday whether to formally arrest Sokolov, who lived with Anastasia Yeshchenko for the past few years and allegedly killed her last week. News of the case — and allegations that Sokolov had abused at least one other female student — prompted widespread outrage and demands for action.
“This case highlighted the impunity of abusers in society,” Alyona Sadikova, the head of the Moscow-based Kitezh women’s crisis centre, said.
More than 5,000 people signed an online petition urging authorities to probe the management of Saint Petersburg State University.
The petition said Sokolov had treated students “in a monstrous way” and cited another female student who said the historian had beaten her and threatened to burn her with a hot iron and kill her in 2008.
“For unknown reasons, the abuser managed to escape any punishment,” the petition said, adding that police who had ignored the woman’s complaint should also be probed.
Russia has no specific legislation on domestic violence or sexual harassment in the workplace
and feminist movements like #MeToo have had little impact in the country.
Alyona Popova, a Moscow lawyer and women’s rights activist, said Sokolov — who also taught at the Sorbonne and was close to Russian authorities — was “shielded by our rotten system”. “This murder could have been avoided,” she wrote on Facebook. — AFP