25 Dec 2020 18:13

Historian Sokolov sentenced to 12.5 years in prison for murdering post-grad student

ST. PETERSBURG. Dec 25 (Interfax) - The Oktyabrsky District Court in St. Petersburg has found historian Oleg Sokolov guilty of murdering post-graduate student Anastasia Yeshchenko and illegally possessing a weapon, an Interfax correspondent reported from the courtroom on Friday.

"The court ordered [...] to sentence Oleg Valeryevich Sokolov to 12 years of imprisonment under Part 1 Article 105 (murder) and to one year and six months of imprisonment under Part 1 Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal possession of a weapon). The cumulative sentence is 12 years and six months in a high-security penitentiary, without a fine," Judge Yulia Maximenko said on Friday.

When handing down a sentence to Sokolov, the court took into account as extenuating circumstances his remorse, his active cooperation with the investigators, his apologies to the young woman's family, his positive characteristics, his chronic illnesses and young children, his contribution to historical studies and reenactment activities, and his awards and certificates of appreciation. At the same time, the court disregarded his full confession as he only wrote it after his detention.

The court found the accusations made against Yeshchenko of aggression against Sokolov's children to be unfounded. The motive of the crime, jealousy, was determined correctly during the preliminary investigation, the court said. "Sokolov understood and was aware of his actions, and his intent was formed suddenly, during a quarrel with Yeshchenko," the judge said.

The defendant listened to the sentence calmly. The late young woman's parents were present at the sentencing. It was their first appearance in court.

The investigators and the court, Sokolov, now 64, shot post-graduate student Yeshchenko, 24, with whom he co-habited, with a TOZ-17-01 small-caliber sawed-off gun (the man did not have a license for the weapon) and then began strangling her in the early hours of November 8, 2019. When the young woman died, he dismembered her body and decided to dump the body parts into the Moika River. The news about the crime came when the historian was found with a woman's hands in the river, in which he fell while trying to get rid of the remains.

The Yeshchenko murder case was investigated for some five months. In the course of that time, experts conducted many judicial forensic evaluations, including genetic, ballistic, forensic and situational medical-criminalistic evaluations. "Their conclusions made it possible to restore the picture of what occurred, confirming the investigators' theory that Sokolov committed an especially grave crime deliberately," the Russian Investigative Committee press service said.

Sokolov admitted his guilt, both during the preliminary investigation and in court. In his final statement, he said he was remorseful, but he also accused Yevgeny Ponasenkov, his scientific opponent, a publicist and the author of works on history, of causing him to commit murder, and he accused Yeshchenko of "immoral conduct." The defendant also said he had acted in a state of "full insanity." Ponasenkov called Sokolov's arguments complete nonsense.

According to the results of a psychological and psychiatric evaluation announced during the judicial investigation, Sokolov's conflict with Ponasenkov "emotionally exhausted" Sokolov and really could have been a factor in the Yeshchenko murder, but at the same time the defendant was aware of his actions and was not in a state of temporary insanity at the time the crime was committed.

According to earlier reports, the state prosecutors sought 15 years in a high-security penal colony for Sokolov. Alexandra Baksheyeva, a lawyer for the young woman's family, had asked the court to give him "the strictest" punishment. The historian's defense lawyers said up to eight years in prison would be enough for him.

Sokolov, a former assistant professor at St. Petersburg State University, is a leading expert on French military history and the Napoleonic era and one of the founders of the military and historical reenactment movement in Russia. He is a recipient of the French order of the Legion of Honor (according to some sources, this award has now been revoked).