- Jul 2011
Protests in Russia as sisters face jail for killing abusive father | Russia | The GuardianThree teenage sisters who killed their father after suffering years of physical and sexual abuse are facing murder charges in Russia in a case that has sparked protests and a debate about domestic violence.
Maria, Angelina, and Krestina Khachaturyan bludgeoned and stabbed their 57-year-old father, Mikhail, to death as he dozed in an armchair at the family’s flat in northern Moscow last July. They were 17, 18 and 19 years old at the time. They reported the attack to police and admitted carrying it out, saying they believed their lives were at risk if they did not take action.
Investigators determined that the sisters were beaten almost daily by their father, who also forced them to perform sexual acts. He had physically abused them on the day of the fatal attack, locking them in a room and assaulting them with pepper spray.
The sisters’ mother, Aurelia Dunduk, told Russian media that Mikhail Khachaturyan regularly beat her, including with a baseball bat, before throwing her out of the house in 2016. She said police refused to bring charges, when she complained. Her ex-husband also told the sisters he would kill their mother, if they went to live with her.
Lawyers for the sisters said they had been conditioned from an early age to think of themselves as slaves. “The sisters had only one choice – to defend themselves, or die,” said Anna Rivina, the head of an anti-domestic violence organisation in Moscow.
The sisters were all charged this month with premeditated murder. Angelina and Krestina face up to 20 years in prison. Maria, a child at the time, could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
The decision to bring murder charges has been met with protests. In Moscow, hundreds of people gathered last week outside the headquarters of the Investigative Committee law enforcement agency. Activists are continuing to picket its offices almost daily, while a larger rally in support of the sisters is scheduled in Moscow on 6 July. Demonstrations have also taken place at Russian embassies or consulates around the world, and Russian cultural figures have spoken out in defence of the sisters.
“There was no one they could turn to. Police in Russia think that domestic violence is a private, family affair and that there is no reason for them to get involved in this,” said Rivina. “The government can’t and won’t defend victims of domestic violence. Those women who are forced to defend themselves often end up in prison.”
Although there are no official statistics, MediaZona, an independent news website, has calculated that about 80% of all women convicted of murder in Russia were previously abused by violent partners. Human rights groups say at least 16 million women annually face domestic violence in Russia. A popular saying is: “If he beats you, it means he loves you.”
Alexei Parshin, a lawyer for one of the Khachaturyan sisters, said they were holding up well and had been buoyed by public support. They are currently living separately with relatives, under strict curfews, and barred from communicating with each other before the trial, which is expected to begin in August.
Parshin accused investigators of lacking the courage to quash or downgrade the murder charges. “They don’t want to take responsibility for this,” he said.
Russia is one of the few countries in the world not to have specific laws on domestic violence. In 2017, it decriminalised some forms of domestic violence for first-time offenders. Under current Russian law, violence against a spouse or children that does not result in broken bones is punishable by a 30,000-rouble (£375) fine or a 15-day jail sentence. Human rights groups say the average punishment is only a 5,000-rouble (£62) fine.
Women’s rights campaigners say incidences of domestic violence have increased since the law was changed.
In November, a man was sentenced to 14 years in prison after chopping off his wife’s hands. Days before the attack, he had forcibly taken her to a forest near Moscow and threatened to kill her. His wife reported the threats to police but officers took no action. In August, a man in Votkinsk, central Russia, who stabbed his wife to death in front of the couple’s five-year-old child, walked free after a court reclassified murder charges as a “crime of passion”.
Every 40 minutes, a woman in Russia loses her life to domestic violence, FYI: Russia's Disappearing Women: Every Forty Minutes A Woman Dies From Domestic Violence
As to this specific case, it's been a huge shock to many people...
was a very prominent figure in the Armenian community in Moscow, my own uncle Alik, for example, knew him, through business (among his other assets, Khachaturyan controlled a meat plant outside the city which has supplied uncle Alik's chain of butcher shops for years now). He was also... akhem... well known in organized crime circles there too, as a big timer in the Armenian mafia. That's not really unusual over there, most prominent businessmen in Russia are mobbed up, connected to some faction or other, no way out of that, really, you need strong "protection" to make a successful profit, in that country and to not have other thugs come and take it all away from you...
But, as far as his relationship with his daughter, NOBODY knew a damn thing, on the outside, it was a picture of total love, devotion, and idyllic family life
There was some talk of, maybe, arguments, that their dad perhaps objected to his girl's dressing too sexy, or dating non-Armenian boys. But that's also not unusual with Armenian or any Caucasian dad's over there. Certainly nobody suspected the horrible violent crap that really apparently went on in that home, in private, behind closed doors...
Now, their mom has posted photos she took of her daughters back then, their real life, bloodied and crying
Insane... To treat own daughters this way, what kind of animal...
One of the sisters escorted to court
One of the protesters supporting the girls, outside the court
Single person picket is only kind of public protest Russians are allowed by the Kremlin to engage in, so people actually lined up outside the courthouse to hold the picket, one at a time
This is bs, IMHO, these girls need to be set free and given proper psychological and such help, to recover from the ordeal both their dad and then the justice system have put them through!