Sophie Sonnenfeld, Contributing Photographer

A month after Yale employee Anton Sovetov reportedly went missing, the date of his disappearance remains fuzzy and few details have been released in the Yale Police Department’s investigation.

Sovetov is a 44-year-old graphic designer who has worked with the Yale Office of Public Affairs and Communications since 2017 and graduated from the Yale School of Art in 2016. Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins initially notified the Yale community of Sovetov’s disappearance in an email alert Feb. 17. In that notice, Higgins said that Sovetov had last been seen in the downtown area on Feb. 4. 

On Feb. 18, footage of Sovetov emerged on a New Haven crime tracking platform called On Scene Media. The footage showed Sovetov checking out at Chapel Street’s Elm City Market on Feb. 5 at 5:45 p.m. 

Higgins wrote in an email to the News that though YPD did not release the footage, they believe the footage is of Sovetov. If the YPD has confirmed that this is Sovetov in the footage, it is unclear why this footage has not been shared with the public for identification and tips.

On Feb. 26, a week after On Scene Media released the Feb. 5 footage of Sovetov, Yale’s public information office released a statement published in several news outlets reporting that Sovetov disappeared “approximately” around Feb. 4. The release claimed this is when Sovetov was last in contact with colleagues. 

Following the wide circulation of footage of Sovetov at the Elm City Market on Feb. 5, in later releases and postings the YPD corrected the date without explanation.

Sovetov lives in an apartment at 1012 Chapel Street called “The Townsend” overlooking the New Haven Green and Old Campus. When reached by phone last week, Elm Campus Partners, who operates The Townsend, declined to comment. 

Higgins told the News that the YPD collected more video footage in addition to the Elm City Market video of Sovetov heading back along Chapel to his apartment. When approached by the News for footage or information two weeks ago, several business managers and employees along Chapel told the News that they had not been aware of Sovetov’s disappearance, and that they were not approached by any police for information. 

Higgins said that the YPD canvassed areas “related to his day-to-day activities in and around the downtown New Haven area.” This canvass included interviews with residents and employees of area businesses, though not necessarily the businesses the News visited. Higgins added that the YPD reviewed video surveillance footage from “throughout downtown.”

Magic the Gathering and “nature and disconnecting” 

In winter, Sovetov likes to stay in and play video games. Sovetov’s friend and former classmate Marvin de Jong ART ’15 said Sovetov often visited game stores to play Magic the Gathering, a popular trading card game.

De Jong said Sovetov did “a ton” of hiking with friends around New Haven. He said he wasn’t sure which trails Sovetov enjoyed hiking, but that if Sovetov had gone hiking casually, he would’ve picked East Rock. In an update at a NHPD press conference Feb 20, Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell said the YPD had conducted a search around East Rock. “He loved nature and disconnecting to a certain extent,” de Jong said. 

He said Sovetov would venture out on trails farther away if he went with friends. de Jong noted Sovetov did not own a car and never drove. Instead, Sovetov traveled exclusively on his bike unless he got a ride from a friend or Ubered if needed. 

St. Petersburg, The Hague and Yale

de Jong met Sovetov when they were in the same undergraduate class in 2010 at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. De Jong was in a “tight friend group” of a few international students at school along with Sovetov. 

Sovetov is from St. Petersburg. Sovetov’s parents divorced when he was young, and he was raised by his mother. According to de Jong, Sovetov’s father started a new family after the divorce, and Sovetov was not in contact with them. “It was him and his mom as far as I know,” de Jong said. 

Sovetov joined the bachelor program at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague when he was in his 30s, which de Jong noted was “pretty late.” Prior to living in The Hague, Sovetov spent time at another art school and worked in St. Petersburg as a graphic designer in advertising. De Jong said Sovetov felt that working in the ad world wasn’t enough for him and was “too superficial.”

“He wanted to engage with more of the thinking behind design and that’s always been an interest of his,” said de Jong.

After finishing the program at the Royal Academy of Art, de Jong began graduate school at the Yale School of Art, where Sovetov and another friend from the Royal Academy of Art joined de Jong a year later. 

Despite always having been close friends, de Jong said Sovetov is a “pretty private person.”

de Jong said Sovetov kept a predictable routine. For instance, Sovetov picked up food from the same bakery each day. de Jong wasn’t sure if this bakery was Atticus or another bakery along Sovetov’s route to work. “I think he was a creature of habit,” said de Jong. 

Outside of his daily routine, Sovetov accompanied a group of friends to spend time in Provincetown, Massachusetts a few times a year.  

Last contact with Sovetov

de Jong was last in contact with Sovetov on Thursday, Feb. 3, just before Sovetov disappeared. de Jong sent an Instagram message to which Sovetov responded with what de Jong said was nothing out of the ordinary. 

de Jong said to his knowledge Sovetov didn’t talk to anyone about feeling “out of it.” 

He was first alerted that Sovetov might be missing when Sovetov’s Yale co-workers started reaching out to Sovetov’s friends. de Jong said they contacted him the week after Sovetov went missing because Sovetov had been missing work which was “very unlike him.” de Jong said Sovetov would have left a message or made sure his colleagues were aware of his plans for the week if he had planned to leave. 

By the time colleagues reached out to de Jong, they had already contacted the police. At that point, the police had checked out Sovetov’s apartment and began to ask his friends about his whereabouts. The YPD has not confirmed what apartment searches unveiled and if Sovetov’s belongings — such as his passport and bicycle — were found inside. The YPD has also not confirmed if the groceries that Sovetov bought from Elm City Market were still out on Sovetov’s counter and what those groceries were. 

de Jong said one or two weeks between messages from Sovetov were not unusual because the two hadn’t seen each other in a while. Similarly, he said it was not unusual for Sovetov’s friends in the New Haven area to not be in contact for a few days unless they had plans. 

De Jong said that he and his friends thought the nearly two-week gap between when colleagues and friends reported Sovetov’s disappearance and when the YPD sent out the first public alerts about Sovetov missing was “bizarre.” 

He said at the time he thought the YPD sent out alerts so late because they knew something that Sovetov’s friends and colleagues didn’t know or had a solid lead that would have been spoiled with too much public attention. “From a distance [the investigation] feels not good enough but that’s just because we still don’t know anything,” he said. 

Anyone with information is being asked to contact the Yale University P.D. at 203-432-4406, or the New Haven P.D. at 203-946-6316, or use the Yale University LiveSafe app. Information can be anonymous and will remain confidential.

Sophie Sonnenfeld is Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News. She previously served as City Editor and covered cops and courts as a beat reporter. She is a junior in Branford College double majoring in political science and anthropology.