Oleg Sokolov, a 63-year-old history lecturer who was widely regarded as an authority and expert on Napoleon, has admitted to murdering and chopping up his lover and former student. Anastasia Yeschenko, 24, had co-authored a number of books with the professor and was widely known to have been in a relationship with Mr Solokov for three years.
Mr Sokolov was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of murder after he was hauled out of the icy Moika River.
He was found with a backpack, in which there were the severed arms of a woman.
The crime has sent shockwaves through Russia, as Mr Sokolov was widely regarded as a prime example of Russia’s academic prowess and active intelligentsia.
He was awarded France’s Legion d’Honneur in 2003 for his work on Napoleon.
Oleg Sokolov admitted to murdering his former student Anastasia Yeshchenko
Mr Sokolov is renowned for being an authority on Napoleonic history
Mr Sokolov’s lawyer, Alexander Pochuev, told AFP: “He has admitted his guilt.”
He is now reportedly cooperating with police in their investigation, and has said he regrets what he did.
The history buff found himself in the river after falling in while drunk as he tried to dispose of the body, according to The Daily Telegraph.
When police found him, they discovered that he was carrying a back pack with two severed arms inside.
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Ms Yeshchenko was 24 years old
Later, on inspecting his house, they found the decapitated body of Ms Yeschenko.
It is said that after he had dumped the body, Mr Sokolov planned to commit suicide at the Peter and Paul Fortress, one of the former imperial capital’s most famous landmarks, dressed as Napoleon.
Mr Sokolov told investigators he had gotten into an argument with Ms Yeschenko, leading to his shooting and killing of her.
He then sawed off her head, arms and legs, local media reported.
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His passion for Napoleon bordered on ‘obsessive’ according to the BBC
He reportedly organised countless reinactions of Napoleonic battles
Mr Sokolov taught history at Saint Petersburg State University, where President Vladimir Putin attended, and was close to the Russian authorities.
Mr Pochuyev said Mr Sokolov – who has been receiving hospital treatment for hypothermia – may have been under stress.
Ms Yeschenko was a postgraduate student who had moved to St. Petersburg from Krasnodar region in southern Russia.
A friend told Ria news agency: “She was quiet, sweet and always the ideal student.
Russian detectives searched the river for any more traces of evidence
“Absolutely everyone knew about their relationship.”
She studied French history and enjoyed wearing period costumes with Mr Sokolov, according to the BBC.
Russian media report that her mother was a police lieutenant colonel and her father was a school PE teacher.
A BBC analysis said Mr Sokolov’s passion for Napoleonic history bordered on “obsessive”, and that his relationship with Ms Yeschenko had been going on for three years and was common knowledge at the university.
Friends said she was a top student who shared her lover’s enthusiasm for Napoleonic history.
The pair would regularly dress up together in costume
The BBC said one person described Mr Sokolov as “eccentric but not agressive”, while others said he considered himself Napoleon reincarnate.
Ms Yeschenko’s brother told RBK Media that his sister had called her in tears during the early hours of Friday morning explaining that the couple had had a row following her telling Mr Sokolov that she planned to stay in a student hostel.
Mr Sokolov has had his name removed from the numerous prestigious establishments he was associated with – one being France’s Institute of Social Science, Economics and Politics.