Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv. Photo: Nataliya Kudryk, RFE/RL
On June 12, 2019, the Pavia court in Italy sentenced National Guardsman Vitaliy Markiv to 24 years for alleged complicity in the killing of Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli near occupied Sloviansk on May 24, 2014. For the first time ever, a Ukrainian soldier (Markiv also has Italian citizenship), who was doing his duty defending Ukraine from the Russian aggressor and its minions, was sentenced in a foreign country.
The jury pronounced the verdict after deliberating for an hour and a half.
On October 11, 2019, the Pavia judges published a statement of reasons for their shocking decision in the case of Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv.
On November 20, 2019, Markiv’s defense team filed a request to appeal the Pavia court decision against Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv. Defense attorneys representing the interests of Ukraine and authorized by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine also filed a statement of appeal against the decision of the Pavia court. Both requests were submitted to the Pavia court and will be forwarded to the Milan Court of Appeals.
In December 2019, the Secretary of the Italian party Più Europa (+Europe), Benedetto Della Vedova, sent a letter about the Markiv case to the President of the newly-created European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen and the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders. In his letter, Della Vedova recounts the contradictions and absurdities of the sentence and the trial and asks President von der Leyen and Commissioner Reinders to ensure the presence of observers from the European Commission in the upcoming court of appeals.
Resolution 2717 addressed by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to the President and Parliament of Italy
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has appealed to the President and Parliament of Italy to ensure transparency, objectivity and impartiality in the upcoming appeal hearings of senior sergeant, National Guardsman of Ukraine, Vitaliy Markiv.
Resolution 2717 was voted by 323 MPs on Friday, January 17, 2020. The statement reads that the Pavia court decision violates the rights of the Ukrainian military and is damaging to the image of Ukraine:
“The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine considers that the sentence, issued by the Pavia court (Lombardy Region, Republic of Italy) on July 12, 2019 regarding Ukrainian citizen Vitaliy Markiv, contravenes the sovereignty of the State of Ukraine.
We appeal to the President and the Parliament of the Republic of Italy, and request that they, within the limits of their authority, ensure transparency, objectivity and impartiality in the appeal proceedings against Vitaly Markiv.”
The Verkhovna Rada states that the case against Markiv “demonstrates obvious violations of the rule of law, offers no guarantees for a fair trial, and neglects a key legal principle of criminal proceedings – presumption of innocence.”
The Parliament of Ukraine also underlines that the proceedings “took place in an anti-Ukrainian atmosphere, that the evidence put forth by the prosecution team was based on rumour and prejudice, and that the court rejected the request of the defense team to inspect the scene of the killing on Mount Karachun, while the probable presence and involvement of Russian forces and pro-Russian militants were never investigated”.
Furthermore, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine notes that no clear evidence proving the complicity of the Ukrainian troops or Markiv in the tragedy was provided during the trial.
The Ukrainian Parliament also strongly condemns the use of unacceptable language in the verdict, according to which the Ukrainian Army is composed of “Ukrainian rebels who captured Mount Karachun”, that “firing at civilians is the usual behaviour of the Ukrainian Army and the National Guard of Ukraine”, while military operations in Eastern Ukraine are branded as an “ongoing civil war”.