The body of Mikhail Khachaturian was found on a ladder in an apartment building in Moscow in July 2018, with dozens of knife injuries to his chest and neck.
A few hours before his death, he returned from a psychiatric clinic and lined up his three daughters to punish them for the chaotic apartment and sprayed their faces with pepper, according to investigators and the sisters’ lawyer. His older daughter, Christina, who has asthma, fainted.
That was the night in which the Khachaturian sisters – Christina, 19, Angelina, 18, and Maria, 17 – decided to kill their father. They attacked him with a hammer, a knife and the same can of pepper that he had filled earlier.
Lecture transcripts that were leaked to the press, and verified by CNN by a sister’s lawyer, leaked that the women tried to inflict wounds on themselves as if their father, who was asleep at the beginning of the attack, hit them with a knife first. Then they called the police and an ambulance.
The next day the three were arrested and confessed to the killing, saying they had suffered years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse from their father, according to their lawyer and the Russian Prosecutor’s Office.
Last summer, the sisters were charged with premeditated murder, which caused an uproar among activists in Russia, grappling with a widespread problem of domestic abuse.
Legal action against the sisters started on Friday, and is expected to continue for some time. The prosecution requested that the sisters be prevented from participating in public events – and there are many demonstrations planned to support them – and to extend the ban on access to the Internet and talking to the media, each other, and participants in the trial for a period of six months.
The Kheshaturian case soon became a prominent reason for rights groups fighting to pass a law to protect victims of domestic violence that was shelved by parliament in 2016.
After a long and interlinked investigation before the trial, their trial begins in a Moscow courtroom. The older sisters, Christina and Angelina, will be tried together. Maria, who was a minor at the time of the murder but was charged after she was 18, was also considered mentally unfit for murder and will be tried separately for the murder charge, according to one of the sisters’ lawyer, Alexei Liczer.
Domestic violence experts, along with the Sisters Defense Team, say that in the absence of appropriate protection mechanisms within law enforcement and the court system, their only choice was to defend themselves or ultimately die at the hands of their father.
In text conversations obtained from their father’s phone and posted on Facebook Liptser, Mikhail Khachaturian appeared to have threatened to kill them and sexually assault them and their mother.
“I will beat you for everything, I will kill you,” says a transcript from April 2018, accusing them of sexual relations with a male friend. “You are prostitutes and you will die as prostitutes.”
The interrogation transcripts also painted a chilling picture of mental, physical and sexual abuse dating back to at least four years before the killing.
“We think they had no other choice. The father pushed the girls to despair, and their whole life was a constant hell. They cannot be compared to healthy, calm and balanced people … The girls have developed serious mental illnesses, including abuse syndrome and PTSD. Alexei Parchin said. One of the sisters’ lawyer, this has been confirmed by all examinations in the case.
Since last summer, activists have held dozens of demonstrations to support the sisters as part of the “I Did Not Want to Die” campaign, calling on the authorities to reclassify the issue of the sisters’ self-defense.
Celebrities aged from former presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak to singer Down Serge Tankian’s regime have appealed for leniency in the sisters issue.
The 2019 poll conducted by the Center for Independent Opinion Polls Levada Center showed that 47% of Russian women and 33% of men felt that the actions of the Khatchurian sisters were justified.
A 2019 investigation by Media Zona, a Russian outlet that covers justice and prisons, said that nearly 80% of Russian women imprisoned for premeditated murder in 2016-2018 were trying to protect themselves from abusers.
While Russian lawmakers have left the Domestic Violence Bill on a quiet fire since 2016, they have found time to decriminalize some forms of abuse three years ago.
In 2017, under pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church and defenders of “traditional values,” Parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that became known as the “slapping law,” which criminalized the first offense of domestic violence that did not seriously harm a person, making it a less administrative crime Danger.
Initially, popular pressure seemed to have reversed the situation for the Khatchaturian sisters.
In January, the Office of the Prosecutor confirmed allegations made by the defense that the Khatchatrian sisters were subjected to “constant beatings, humiliation, threats, abuse, and physical and sexual violence” and that they developed a “defensive reaction”.
Prosecutors then ordered the investigation committee to reclassify the case from willful killing to necessary self-defense.
Parchin told Tass News at the time that the move “basically means ending a criminal investigation” against sisters who have faced up to 20 years in prison for premeditated murder.
But in a staggering reversal, Victor Greene, the same attorney general who first recommended the case be reduced, confirmed in May that charges of intentional homicide against the sisters would indeed be brought. There is no explanation for this change.
Mary Davitian, a lawyer for sisters who often represent victims of family violence, has linked the reflection to a broader trend of rejection of human rights that has been growing since the controversial amendments to the Russian constitution passed after the referendum on July 1.
The referendum, designed to solidify President Vladimir Putin’s rule for years to come, was followed by a series of notable arrests, such as accusations of treachery against the former journalist Ivan Safronov, or the trial of former Khabarovsk governor, Sergei. Vorgal, who was transferred to Moscow on charges of premeditated murder, sparking massive protests in the Russian Far East. Both deny any wrongdoing.
“I think it is impossible not to notice what has been happening every day since 1 July 2020, the country has chosen its path,” Daftian wrote on her Facebook page. “The Kheshaturian case is no exception.”