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Russian Historian Charged With Dismembering Girlfriend Refuses To Plead, Changes Lawyers

Oleg Sokolov attends a court hearing in St. Petersburg on June 15.
Oleg Sokolov attends a court hearing in St. Petersburg on June 15.

A Russian historian charged with murdering and dismembering his student lover has refused to enter a plea and announced that he has changed lawyers as his trial resumed on June 15 in the city of St. Petersburg.

In answering a question from Judge Yulia Maksimenko about whether he was pleading guilty, Oleg Sokolov said he would like "to answer this question after the accusing side presents all of its evidence."

During an investigation of the case, Sokolov admitted to killing and dismembering his lover, 24-year-old postgraduate student Anastasia Yeshchenko, a crime that has captivated Russia's second-largest city.

Sokolov also said at the trial on June 15 that he decided to change his lawyers, after which the trial was adjourned until June 22.

The high-profile case has been adjourned or postponed several times in recent months for various reasons, including restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The 63-year-old historian was detained on November 9 after being pulled out of the Moika River with a backpack containing the body parts of a young woman. Investigators later found the woman's head in his apartment.

A flamboyant academic who regularly dressed in Napoleonic-era costumes and took part in battle reenactments, Sokolov was once awarded France's Order of Legion d'Honneur for his research into Napoleon.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax