Professor, 64, claims young lover ‘grinned like a witch before he shot her’

A 64-year-old historian claimed his 24-year old girlfriend grinned “like a witch” before he allegedly shot her dead.

Professor Oleg Sokolov faces trial for murder after the death of doctorate student Anastasia Yeschenko, who's dismembered body was found in St Petersburg’s Moika River.

Sokolov, who is noted as Russia’s leading expert on the Napoleonic Wars, told the court how he had quarrelled with his lover after she had complimented him by calling him “the best historian in Russia.” .

He asked her when it would be convenient to meet his children from a previous relationship but claims she replied: "Your geeks, I hate them.”

Sokolov told the court: "This was accompanied by furious outbursts, she changed in her face, began to grin, and became like a witch,”

He said that she had knocked a phone out of his hands as he tried to film her during their row.

"I was shaking, I sat down at the computer, wanted to be distracted, to work,” said the professor.

“After 30-to-40 minutes she came back, burst in holding in knife and a scarf which I had given her, and began to cut it up, shouting: ‘I hate everything connected with you.’

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The professor, who according to some former colleagues thought he was a reincarnation of Napoleon, told how he owned a Soviet TOZ-17 rifle which had been sawn-off and modified to resemble a 19th century cavalry gun.

"An idiotic idea came to me, I wanted to shoot, so that the sound of the shot would calm her down,” he claimed.

“She threw herself at me with a knife or scissors.

“I raised my hand and fired in her direction.

“I was not intending to shoot her, but I hit her in the head.

“I do not remember what happened next.

“I woke up feeling cold.

“There was a horror that I was a monster.”

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Sokolov was drunk and fell into the river himself as he tried to dispose of the body parts, Russian media said. He was dragged from the river suffering from mild hypothermia

When Ms Yeshchenko's dismembered body was recovered from the river, a stun pistol was found in a backpack along with her arms.

Along with the murder weapon, knives, an axe and ammunition were also found in his apartment, Interfax news agency reported.

Forensic witnesses told the court that there was evidence that Sokolov had tried to strangle Ms Yeschenko before shooting her.

Another witness, Ekaterina Przhigodzka, told the court that when she was in a relationship with Sokolov, he tried to strangle her with riding reins and threatened to bury her at a construction site.

Ms Przhigodzka, 33, said she had been in a romantic relationship with the elderly professor as a student.

She said he had beaten her, threatened her, and tried to blackmail her with a sex tape he had made of her during their relationship from 2008 to 2010.

As she gave evidence in the dramatic session, Sokolov became “hysterical” and accused her of being “paid” to “slander” him.

"He had an iron, plugged it in, and threatened to disfigure me for life,” she told the court.

"He sat me on a chair and beat me – chest, face, and pulled me up by the ears along with the chair…it was like the Gestapo, when a lamp is directed into the eyes.”

Then, she told the court, Sokolov took a pair of leather reins and tried to strangle her.

“I lost consciousness, it seems to me, when I began to choke. He brought water and, apparently, splashed it on me.

“After that, he let me go, and began to cry that I had caused this irresistible impulse in him."

The trial continues.

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