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Divers searching for alleged victim of university teacher in St Petersburg - authorities

According to preliminary reports, the young woman had come to St. Petersburg from the Russian southern Krasnodar region and graduated from university three years ago

ST. PETERSBURG, November 9. /TASS/. Divers have been engaged in searches for the remains of an alleged victim of Oleg Sokolov, a historian and battle reenactor who was detained in St. Petersburg on Saturday on suspicion of murder, the city security, law and order committee told TASS.

The search operation began in the Moika River on Saturday afternoon to be continued on Sunday, the spokesperson said.

"St. Petersburg’s search and rescue service reporting to the committee has been engaged, at the police request, today since 4 p.m. Divers descended [in the river] several times. By now, the work has been over and is to be continued tomorrow," he said.

The search and rescue service told TASS that "the Saturday searches were fruitless."

St. Petersburg’s investigative department of Russia’s Investigative Committee said that a man born in 1956 was rescued from a river in the city on Saturday morning. Human remains, or two female arms, and a traumatic pistol were found in his backpack. St. Petersburg investigators set up a criminal inquiry under Article 105 Part 1 of Russia’s Criminal Code (murder).

According to law enforcement sources, Sokolov’s alleged victim might be his postgraduate student called Anastasia Eshchenko. The young woman was said to have been his co-author in joint scientific works and could have had an intimate relationship with Sokolov. According to preliminary reports, the young woman had come to St. Petersburg from the Russian southern Krasnodar region and graduated from university three years ago. Investigators told TASS that they were looking into media reports that Sokolov had allegedly beaten female students.

Oleg Sokolov, PhD in History Candidate, was born in 1956 in Leningrad. He is an associate professor at the New and Modern History Department of St. Petersburg State University. Sokolov has authored a series of monographs on the Napoleon-ruled French military and the personality of Napoleon Bonaparte, according to the information on the university website. In 2003, then French President Jacques Chirac signed a decree awarding Sokolov the Order of Legion d'Honneur, France’s highest decoration, for his studies and enormous contribution to popularization of the history of France and its army.

In 1976, Sokolov founded the first group of battle reenactors in the Soviet Union, which laid the foundation for contemporary historical reenactment in Russia. The Russian Military History Movement, which unites military history clubs in 52 Russian regions, was founded in 2006 under Sokolov’s leadership.