Russian historian found with dismembered woman's arm

Police in Saint Petersburg on Saturday arrested a prominent Russian historian on suspicion of murdering a former student after he was hauled out of a river with a backpack containing a woman's arms, authorities said.

Local media in Saint Petersburg reported that university professor Oleg Sokolov was drunk and fell into the river as he tried to dispose of body parts.

Police reportedly then went to Sokolov's home where they discovered the decapitated body of Anastasia Yeshchenko, 24, with whom he had co-authored a number of works.

"A 63-year-old man was rescued from the River Moika," investigators said in a statement.

The arms of a woman were discovered in his backpack, the statement said, adding that the detained man was suspected of murder.

Investigators did not name the man but police speaking to AFP identified him as Sokolov.

The historian is the author of books on French statesman and military leader Napoleon Bonaparte and had acted as a historical consultant on several films.

He received France's Legion d'Honneur in 2003.

Sokolov was also a member of France's Institute of Social Science, Economics and Politics (ISSEP), but on Saturday the society announced in a statement that he had been stripped of his position on its scientific committee.

"We learn with horror ... the atrocious crime of which Oleg Sokolov is guilty...," it said.

As an academic of such standing, the statement added, "We could never imagine that he could commit such an odious act".

ISSEP was founded by Marion Marechal, the niece of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally party and a former deputy of the party. 

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