“We should be heard” – Mironov family denounce Italian court’s disregard for testimony of Russian activist in Markiv case

Andrei Mironov (left), Andrea Rocchelli (right). Photo: Novaya Gazeta archive 

International

Article by: Ekaterina Vorobiova / Novaya Gazeta
Translated by: Christine Chraibi

On May 24, 2014, Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian human rights activist, journalist and interpreter Andrei Mironov were killed near then-occupied Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine. The friends and relatives of Andrei Mironov have been largely ignored by the Italian courts and today insist on taking part in the proceedings.

The Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case over the deaths of the two reporters. At that time it was the trend in Russia to look for any facts relating to so-called “Ukrainian atrocities”. The investigation was limited to an interview and question period with Andrei Mironov’s brother and then left at the bottom of a pile dealing with unsolved criminal cases. For six years, the Russian Investigative Committee has been silent, because there is nothing to say.

However, an investigation was carried out by the Italian side, and in 2017, a Ukrainian-Italian, Vitaly Markiv, who in May 2014 took part as a volunteer fighter in the hostilities in eastern Ukraine, was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the killing of Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov.

The court hearings took place in 2018-2019 in the city of Pavia, at the place of residence of Andrea Roccheli’s relatives. The hearings in the court of first instance ended with a strong sentence on July 12, 2019: Markiv was found guilty of murder by the jury and sentenced to 24 years in prison. The verdict was appealed by the defense, and the next stage of hearings began on September 29, 2020. On October 15, 2020, the third hearing was held in the Court of Appeal in Milan.

For a surprisingly long time, Andrei Mironov’s friends and relatives did not have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with materials relating to the Markiv case, were not party to the trials, and were not questioned either during the investigation or in court.

The Russian authorities withdrew, showing no interest in either the investigation or the court, let alone defending the rights of their citizens.

It was only with the assistance of human rights defenders and lawyers, who created an international group to study the effectiveness of the murder investigation, that the situation began to change and evolve. This group included representatives of the Memorial Human Rights Center (Moscow), the Centre for Civil Liberties (Kyiv), and the French non-governmental organization Centre de Protection Internationale (Paris).

Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv. Photo: Novaya Gazeta archive

On October 15, an open letter from Andrei Mironov’s friends and relatives was read in the Milan Court of Appeal.

Open letter 

Your Honour, Giovanna Ada Lucia Ichino!

We, the undersigned, friends and relatives of Andrei Mironov, who was killed along with Andrea Rocchelli on May 24, 2014 in eastern Ukraine, near the city of Sloviansk, wish to address the court with the following statement.

We learned about the start of the appeal hearings related to the killing of Andrea Rocchelli in Milan. However, we are very troubled by the fact that we have never been contacted regarding the decision to file an appeal, we did not receive any materials dealing with the investigation, could not familiarize ourselves with the materials of the case, and did not have the opportunity to participate as victims in the court proceedings.

As relatives of the deceased, we insist on our right to appear and testify in court as the injured party and civil plaintiffs.

Unfortunately, the Russian Investigative Committee did not take any steps to protect our rights, and therefore we appeal directly to Your Honour.

In addition, we would like to share with the court and the investigation team all the information that we have gathered on this case.

The brother of the deceased, Aleksandr Mironov, and the colleague of the deceased, Ekaterina Vorobiova (…) were in touch with Andrei Mironov on May 24, 2014, on the day of the tragedy.

Aleksandr Mironov formulated a list of the most important issues that, in his opinion, were not considered during the court sessions. Please see Appendix 1.

We kindly ask you to notify us of the upcoming hearing and we formally notify Your Honour that we are ready to take part in the proceedings. (…)

We will be pleased to answer any follow-up questions.

Yours faithfully,

Aleksandr Mironov, brother of the deceased, Moscow;

Ekaterina Vorobiova, colleague and close friend of the deceased, Novaya Gazeta, Moscow;

Sofiya (Sophia) Kayes, niece of the deceased, Belarusian Free Theatre, London;

Aleksandr Nagovitsyn, colleague and close friend of the deceased, film director, Yekaterinburg;

Alla Onishchenko-Schlatte, close friend of the deceased, professor, Fairfield, USA.

Appendix 1 

On the absence of an objective investigation of circumstantial evidence in the killing of Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov.

  1. During the autopsy, a yellow fragment was removed from my brother’s body. The shard was placed in a test tube and included in the initial investigation by the Ukrainian government in the summer and fall of 2014.
  2. The examination of the above-mentioned fragment carried out by the Ukrainian government did not establish a correlated type of ammunition used in the shooting. I believe that this points to either incompetence on the part of the experts, or disinterest in producing objective results.
  3. What other evidence did the Italian side find with regard to the aforementioned fragment?
  4. What evidence, if any, did the court find with regard to the shrapnel that wounded French photographer William Roguelon?
  5. What photos, video and sound recordings made by William Roguelon and Andrea Rocchelli were approved and examined by the court?

The above material evidence and records, as well as the circumstances of the actual killing of journalists can and must be fully and reliably investigated by competent court experts.

Yours sincerely,

Aleksandr Mironov

Editor’s Note

On October 20, Ukrainian journalist Olga Tokariuk, who co-authored the documentary Crossfire investigating the killing, published a thread on Twitter on the Markiv case. The original title of the film – The Wrong Place – was recently changed by the producers as it was deemed offensive by Mironov’s close friends and Rocchelli’s family. The new title, Crossfire, is a reference to the last words of Andrei Mironov, captured on the video several minutes before his death. “There is a crossfire, – he says, – and we are caught in the middle!”.

More here: I investigated who really killed my colleagues in Donbas. Now I.m under attack by Russian & Italian media

On October 21, Councilor Franco Vassallo commented on the Markiv case in the MilanPost:

“Vitaliy Markiv is a patriot, a young, innocent family man, who was caught in the absurdity of our judicial system. What he is not is a murderer. This is surreal story based on conditionals and conditioning, in which no one saw him shoot, the murder weapon was not found, in which there are no fingerprints or direct witnesses to the shooting. All we can do is hope that it will end in the best possible way. Let us not forget the tragic story of Enzo Tortora and the injustice that he suffered…”

Sophia Kayes, Andrei Mironov’s niece recently showed her support on FB for the Ukrainian-Italian film crew and their upcoming documentary Crossfire.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

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