In a 'stunning' reversal in one of the country's most notorious cases, Russian prosecutors have brought charges of premeditated murder against three Moscow teenage sisters for killing their abusive father, their defence team said on Monday.
The decision was greeted with shock after the same prosecutor Viktor Grin asked investigators in December to drop the murder charges, arguing that the sisters acted in self-defence.
Krestina, Angelina and Maria stabbed their 57-year old father Mikhail Khachaturyan in July 2018 after enduring years of intimidation, beatings and sexual abuse.
The sisters’ case became a cause celebre among campaigners against domestic violence, triggering public discussion about family and relationships in modern Russia.
“This is a stunning standpoint,” Alexei Parshin, defence lawyer for Angelina Khachaturyan, told the Telegraph, referring to the prosecutors’ decision to back the same indictment they dismissed a few months earlier. “It shows that the state is willing to protect a rapist more than his victims.”
The girls were “prepared” for this decision, according to Parshin, who said that as victims of long-lasting abuse they believe that “the hell they’re going through right now is much better than what they were subjected to before.”
To Mari Davtyan, who often represents victims of domestic violence in court, the prosecutors’ surprise decision spells a worrying trend of cracking down on human rights that appears to have taken hold after Vladimir Putin won the vote earlier this month to extend his rule.
“It’s impossible not to notice what’s been happening on a daily basis since 1 July, 2020,” she said on Facebook, referring to the preceding week of arrests and police raids. “The state has chosen its trend. The Khachaturyan sisters’ case is not an exception.”
Two older sisters will stand trial together while the younger one, who was under-age at the time of the killing, would have a separate trial, the defence lawyers said.
Media Zona, a news website founded by members of the punk band Pussy Riot, has compiled research showing that nearly 2,000 out of 2,500 women convicted of manslaughter in Russia 2016-2018 had killed a family member in self-defence or a revenge attack for domestic violence.
Russia decriminalised some forms of domestic violence in 2017, and activists are now fighting for a bill that would offer protection for victims of domestic abuse.