‘It was their lives or his’. Leading women’s rights attorney Mari Davtyan explains the domestic violence case that’s bringing Russians out into the streets

In mid-June, Russia’s Investigative Committee released its final draft of the charges against Krestina, Angelina, and Maria Khachaturyan. In a case that has lasted about a year so far, the sisters are facing charges of murder committed by a conspiracy of multiple individuals: they stabbed their father after surviving years of constant abuse at his hands. The statute that was used to charge the Khachaturyans carries a sentence of eight to 20 years in prison. The sisters’ attorneys have submitted an appeal to Investigative Committee Director Alexander Bastrykin. They argue that the Khachaturyans committed an act of “necessary self-defense” against their father, Mikhail, to escape confinement, potentially fatal assaults, and rape. In Russian jurisprudence, this means they should be charged with a lesser crime that carries a far lower sentence. An international campaign for the sisters has accompanied the case, with protesters around the world joining artists like Armenian-American musician Serj Tankian in calling for the Khachaturyans to be released. Meduza special correspondent Sasha Sulim discussed the case with attorney Mari Davtyan, who co-authored a bill to prevent intimate partner and family violence that activists are still pushing Russia’s government to consider.