3 Russian teen sisters on trial for killing their father, citing years of horrific abuse, put a spotlight on domestic violence in the country

Bill Bostock
Russian murder teens

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  • Russia is captivated by the murder trial of three teen sisters who killed their abusive father.
  • Krestina Khachaturyan, 19, and her sisters Angelina, 18, and Maria, 17, do not deny killing their father Mikhail, but say they had no choice after years of sexual and physical abuse.
  • Prosecutors argue that, regardless of their father's behavior, the teens committed a premeditated murder.
  • The Russian public has rallied behind the sister's cause, and large protests have been held demanding their freedom.
  • Russia's domestic violence laws are very permissive, and were made even softer in 2017. The punishment for beating your children is 15 days in prison, as long as you break no bones.
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The Russian public is rallying behind three teenage sisters on trial for killing their father, an act they say was forced upon them by years of abuse at his hands.

The high-profile trial of Krestina Khachaturyan, 19, and her sisters Angelina, 18, and Maria, 17, has thrown Russia's permissive domestic violence laws back into the spotlight, and prompted protests on the streets.

The teens say they suffered years of violent sexual, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of their father Mikhail, 57, at their Moscow home.

Angelina, one of the three Khachaturyan teen sisters charged with their father's murder, attends a hearing at Moscow's Basmanny District Court, a motion filed to extend their house arrest. Mikhail Khachaturyan, 57, was killed by his three daughters Maria, Angelina and Krestina, 17, 18 and 19 respectively, in their flat on July 27, 2018.

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On July 27, 2018, the sisters doused their father with pepper spray, stabbed him 36 times with a hunting knife, and beat him with a hammer as he slept in an armchair, according to court documented cited by the BBC.

The BBC said Angelina used the hammer, Maria the knife, and Krestina the pepper spray. They are then said to have called the police to hand themselves in. 

After the teens were charged with murder on June 13, many Russians rallied in support of them.

Krestina, one of the Khachaturyan sisters charged with the murder of their father, during a hearing at Moscow's Basmanny District Court. Mikhail Khachaturyan was stabbed to death by his daughters, Krestina, 19, Angelina, 18 and Maria, 17, at their home on Altufyevskoye Highway on July 27, 2018. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)

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If found guilty Angelina and Krestina could get 20 years in prison. Maria is under 18, and therefore a child, so has a maximum punishment of 10 years.

Alexei Parshin, attorney for the Khachaturyan sisters, wrote on Facebook the teens have post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of abuse, and killed their father in self-defense. 

Investigators confirmed the girls were subject to years of systematic beatings and violent sexual abuse, Reuters reported, citing investigators' documents.

A large protest was held in Moscow on July 6 in support of the teens. Protests have spread to cities like St Petersburg, where activists have waved banners with the words "We are the Khachaturyan sisters."

300,000 people have also signed a petition demanding their release, the BBC report.

The courts have reacted to the public outpouring of anger, by allowing the teens to leave police custody during the trial.

Participants in a rally in support of Khachaturyan sisters 'For justice for women forced to defend themselves, and for a law on domestic violence', in Lenina Square. On July 27, 2018,

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Russia has notoriously weak domestic abuse laws, which set a very high bar before authorities will intervene.

The laws were made more ineffectual by landmark changes approved by Vladimir Putin in January 2017.

Read more: Putin applauds Russia's women as 'beautiful, bright, and charming' in bizarre, gushing speech for International Women's Day

Before the change, the law was that a first instance of beating a wife of child was punishable with two years in prison, so long as no bones are broken.

The post-2017 system reduces the punishment to 15 days, or a 30,000 rouble ($457) fine.

Russia's top human rights official, Tatyana Moskalkova, later labelled the reforms a "mistake."

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