Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Simple Answers in Gleb's Tragic Story

MTSvetlana, right, sitting at the entrance of Gleb's apartment building in the Moscow region town of Likino-Dulyovo. She sat here the day he was killed.
LIKINO-DULYOVO, Moscow Region -- In a dusty courtyard, 8-year-old Dima kicks a football to a passing reporter he has never met.

"Come on, pass it back," Dima said.

He jumps in the air and twists around, letting out a squeal of delight.

Dima follows the reporter to the nearby street, where they pass the football back and forth for a few minutes. Adults come and go but pay scant attention to the two.

Things, it seems, are finally getting back to normal.

Just five months earlier, no one in this sleepy town three hours' drive east of Moscow dared leave their children unattended.

On April 14, a man approached two 10-year-old boys who were playing in this very street. He led them off to nearby woodland at knifepoint, raped them and stabbed them several times in the neck, police said.

Gleb Zhukov died on the spot. The other boy, identified by police only as Oleg M., managed to escape but was left blind in one eye.

The attack sent shockwaves through the town. Children were locked inside their homes or accompanied wherever they went, residents said.

Police registered 15 cases of children being sexually assaulted and murdered nationwide in the first six months of this year. Only five cases were registered in all of 2006 and nine in 2005.

Eleven of this year's 15 cases have been solved, Iskandar Galimov, the acting head of the Interior Ministry's criminal investigation department, said at a news conference last month.

The sharp increase in murders comes amid a slight drop in the overall number of child homicides. A total of 2,886 children under the age of 18 were murdered last year, compared with 2,982 in 2005, according to Interior Ministry figures.

Countries like the United States and Britain do not keep specific, up-to-date statistics on child sex murders. A spokesman for the FBI said the latest figures he had were for 2005, and they did not specify whether the victims had also been sexually assaulted.

In overall murders, Russia is the world's fifth-most dangerous country, with one murder for every 5,000 citizens every year, the Prosecutor General's Office said in a report in July. The only countries with a higher murder rate per capita are Colombia, South Africa, Jamaica and Venezuela, it said.

David Nowak / MT
The wooded area where Gleb was raped and killed. The boy's apartment building can be seen through the trees.
Among this year's 15 cases are the rape and murder of two 3-year-old girls -- one in the Far East city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the other in the Moscow region -- and similar crimes against girls in the Rostov and Krasnoyarsk regions.

In addition, Nastya Mokryakova, 4, died of stab wounds to the neck after being raped in the Moscow region in May.

On June 25, police found the body of an 8-year-old girl who had been raped and choked to death in the Novosibirsk region. On the same day, police in the neighboring Kemerovo region found the body of Sonya Belokopytova, 5, who had disappeared two days earlier. She had been raped and stabbed.

Assigning Blame

People are pointing fingers over who is to blame. Parents say police should keep neighborhoods safe. Police say parents should better supervise children. Psychologists say poor parenting and alcohol play a major role.

No officials, however, have spoken out about how to counter the murders. Perhaps that's because they realize prevention would mean undertaking the Herculean task of breaking a cycle of violence that is deeply entrenched in society, said Mark Sandomirsky, a criminal psychologist who has interviewed suspected murderers on behalf of the Interior Ministry.

Sandomirsky spelled out a typical scenario: A local, unskilled worker is convicted of a minor offense and serves a short prison sentence. Rather than being rehabilitated in prison, though, he is abused and emerges with the desire to get even. He goes on to commit a harsher crime and return to prison. The vicious circle only ends with the most vicious crime, Sandomirsky said.

"These crimes come in waves," he said in his basement office in central Moscow.

David Nowak / MT
Rostok, a private school located a three-minute walk from Gleb's home.
Fueling criminal behavior is alcohol dependency. Around 80 percent of murders are committed under the influence of alcohol, the Interior Ministry said. The average Russian drinks the equivalent of 15 liters of pure alcohol every year, a threefold increase from 16 years ago, according to the Federal Consumer Protection Agency.

In other words, authorities must take steps to raise the overall quality of life before they can start thinking about cutting murder rates. Until this happens, more children like Gleb are at risk, Sandomirsky said.

After the Attack

Police detained a local construction worker, Vasily Lipinin, 20, on April 17, three days after Gleb's murder. Prosecutors said he confessed immediately.

"We asked him why he would do such a thing," said Yelena Rossokhina, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. "He said, 'I wanted to have a laugh.'"

The response helped doctors ascertain that Lipinin was mentally unstable and an alcoholic. He also had a criminal record and had been incarcerated previously. The prosecutor did not provide details about his conviction.

The suspect fits the Interior Ministry's profile of a child sex killer. Most of the other suspects detained in this year's killings are alcoholics. Five had previously served time for serious crimes. Prosecutors would not say whether Lipinin knew Gleb or his mother, but eight of the other suspects knew their victims.

Likino-Dulyovo is a town of 35,000 about 10 kilometers down a dacha-lined road from Orekhovo-Zuyevo, a larger town where most of its residents work. Moscow -- and the big-city mentality that comes with it -- is about 100 kilometers west.

Likino-Dulyovo is the kind of place where trust reigns. Neighbors move freely between apartments, treating others' as their own. Doors into apartment buildings swing back and forth in the breeze. Several of the front doors to buildings even carry the same entrance code. And most children are allowed out without supervision, even after dark.

Gleb lived with his single mother, Lyubov Zhukova, on the top floor of a downtrodden five-story apartment building on Ulitsa Stepano-Morozkina. The corridors and stairways that Gleb and his friend Oleg once tore through with screams of delight now bear the stench of urine.

Every day -- including the day Gleb was killed -- three elderly women sit on a bench outside the entrance to the building, all hard of hearing and wearing thick glasses. Svetlana, who was hardest of hearing, knew the most about Gleb. "He was a wonderful little boy," said Svetlana, who did not give her age or last name.

After the murder, Svetlana spent considerable time with Gleb's mother. "Someone had to be there for her," she said in a soft voice. "She wanted to end it all. It was too much."

Svetlana said she convinced Zhukova to reconsider. "It's OK now because she prays at church," she said.

Zhukova declined to comment for this report. But her neighbors and Gleb's teacher said she had sacrificed a lot for him. No one would disclose her employment, but last September she transferred Gleb from a free public school to Rostok, a private school that charges around $900 per academic year. The school is a three-minute walk from Gleb's home, past apartment buildings and through courtyards.

"We're like a big family here, and Gleb was a beloved son of ours," said Olga, Gleb's teacher. Olga wouldn't give her last name because she had been asked by Zhukova not to speak to the media.

She broke down in tears as she described the shock of his death. "Of course, we just weren't ready for this kind of thing. We thought it was a lie," she said. "Now things are more or less back to normal, but we will always remember Gleb."

The Crime

Prosecutors said Gleb and Oleg were playing in the street outside Gleb's apartment building when they were taken away to a small wooded area at knifepoint.

That wooded area is a stone's throw from Gleb's apartment. It is infested with mosquitoes from late spring to early fall and strewn with garbage. There are sooty circles in places where fires have been lit. Gleb's balcony can be seen from a couple clearings.

Stinging nettles compete with long grass for sunlight between the trees. Trampled paths zigzag around them. One path leads down a slope into a more densely vegetated area where there is noticeably less sunlight. This was where the boys were attacked, prosecutors said.

Unconfirmed reports said that during the attack, Oleg, his face and clothes covered in blood, managed to break free, flee the woodland and alert two teenage girls walking along nearby Oktyabrskaya Ulitsa.

An ambulance arrived within 10 minutes and took him to Orekhovo-Zuyevo's Town Hospital No. 1.

The head doctor of the hospital confirmed that Oleg was taken there and released after two days. She refused to discuss the matter further. Gleb's body was found in the woodland the next day, and Lipinin was arrested two days later.

Prosecutors did not know when Lipinin would stand trial. If convicted of rape and murder, he faces life in prison.

Several neighbors recalled Gleb fondly. Mikhail Glubov, 37, said he never let his 10- and 12-year-old children out of sight, which he called "the first job of a loving parent, especially after Gleb."

Fighting Back

With such tragedies grabbing the headlines, some people have decided to fight back.

Last month, Lidia Alexeyeva, 57, from Samara, caught and beat a man who had tried to molest her grandson, Yevgeny, the Tvoi Den tabloid newspaper reported. A stranger approached Yevgeny, 9, and his friends outside their apartment building with an offer for ice cream. He led Yevgeny around the corner, but was spotted by a neighbor.

Alexeyeva and the neighbor ran down the stairs of the building and into the courtyard. She found the man with Yevgeny in the basement, and beat him with a key ring, the report said. The man fled but was later detained by police, with Alexeyeva's help.