The female victim was reportedly one of his postgraduate students who also co-authored some of his works

By Claudia Harmata
November 11, 2019 12:35 PM
Credit: Peter KovalevTASS/Getty

A prominent Russian historian has allegedly confessed to killing a former student after authorities found a pair of severed arms in his backpack while rescuing him from the Moika River in St. Petersburg.

Oleg Sokolov, a history professor specializing in French revolutionary military history at St. Petersburg State University, was pulled from the frigid river early Saturday morning and later arrested after law enforcement found human remains and a handgun in his backpack, according to several reports.

Following his rescue, Sokolov, 63, was hospitalized for hypothermia. Russian authorities found more remains from the decapitated body of his alleged victim, Anastasia Yeshchenko, 24, at his home in the city, CNN, BBC and Russian state news agency TASS.

On Monday, investigators told TASS that they found additional body parts from the victim in the river. The Russian Investigative Committee did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.


Russian Emergency rescuers and police investigators conduct searches on the Moika River, in Saint Petersburg

Sokolov reportedly signed a plea bargain on Saturday, according to his lawyer, Alexander Pochuyev.

“My defendant has signed a plea bargain deal,” Pochuyev told TASS. “If such a heinous crime, which my client has confessed to, did take place, it had been committed under the influence of strong factors, possibly pathologic intoxication or temporary insanity.”

“But the verdict has not been passed yet, and until that moment a person is forbidden to be considered guilty in accordance with Russia’s Constitution and Article 14 of Russia’s Criminal Code,” he added. BBC reported that the lawyer also told AFP news agency that his client admitted to the crime.

Authorities believe that Yeshchenko was one of Sokolov’s postgraduate students who graduated from the university three years ago. She is said to have co-authored some of Sokolov’s works. It has also been reported that there may have been an intimate relationship between the suspect and the victim.

BBC reports that Sokolov allegedly told police he killed Yeshchenko on Thursday after an argument and was planning to dispose of her body in the river before taking his own life.

Sokolov is an associate professor at the New and Modern History Department of St. Petersburg State University. He is reported to have a particular affinity for Napoleon Bonaparte and his era of rule, and has allegedly authored many works on the French leader.

In 2003, Sokolov was honored by French President Jacques Chirac with the Order of Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, for his studies and contribution to popularization of the history of France and its army.

The suspect is also said to have participated in historical re-enactments, founding the first group of battle reenactors in the Soviet Union in 1976.