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Italian prosecutor demands more than 1 million euros from Ukraine for Italian reporter’s death in Donbas

Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markov, who is accused of complicity in the death of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, in Pavia courtroom, June 14, 2019
Italian prosecutor demands more than 1 million euros from Ukraine for Italian reporter’s death in Donbas
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
On June 14, the Pavia court in Italy held another session of the trial of Ukrainian National Guard commander Vitaliy Markiv, who is accused of complicity in the death of the Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli in Donbas five years ago.

The attorneys of the civilian plaintiffs – Rocchelli’s family and Italian journalism organizations – addressed their closing arguments to the jury.

They expressed their support for the prosecution’s accusation, namely that on May 24, 2014, Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv provided the Armed Forces of Ukraine with information about the location of foreign journalists near the Zeus Ceramica factory in Russian-occupied Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast.

The attorneys agreed that Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian colleague Andrey Mironov were killed by mortar shelling directed from Mount Karachun, where the Ukrainian troops were stationed, and not by pro-Russian militants. The attorneys praised the behaviour of the pro-Russian militants, citing their own journalists as eye witnesses, who denied that the militants were responsible for the deaths of the foreign reporters.

Representing Rocchelli’s family, Alessandra Ballerini sharply criticized Ukrainian authorities for failing to investigate the events and causes of the Rocchelli’s death. She considers this an insult to the victim’s family, who have lost faith in the Ukrainian government. Ballerini states that although the family never intended to raise the issue of compensation, she is ready to demand 1 million euros, 500,000 euros each for the victim’s mother and father, and an additional 800,000 euros for his wife. Additional compensation was demanded for the photojournalist’s sister.

The attorney representing Cesura Lab,  an independent group of photographers, asked for 15,000 euros compensation from the Ukrainian government. The funds would be used to organize professional courses for journalists in Italy.

Representing the Italian National Press Federation (FNSI) and the Lombardy Association of Journalists, lawyer and politician Giuliano Pisapia did not disclose the amount demanded by his clients, presenting it to the court in writing. He added that the funds would be used to protect Italian journalists.

“The FNSI believes in the presumption of innocence, but we also think that certain points raised during the trial point to Markiv’s guilt.” said Pisapia.

Attorney Giuliano Pisapia (standing, left) at a previous court hearing, March 2019

Massimiliano Mellè, journalist at Milano Today, also commented on the trial:

“Attorney Giuliano Pisapia showed great respect when speaking about the defendant, underlining the fact that “he’s been in custody for a very long time (almost two years)” and criticized a local newspaper, which had published Markiv’s photo with the caption – “probable murderer”. And, many doubts remain about the prosecution’s reconstruction of the events, given that the Ukrainian side viewed both Rocchelli and Mironov in a positive way; after all, Russia considered Mironov its enemy.”

There will be three more court sessions in this trial, which started on July 6, 2018. Chief defense attorney Raffaelle Della Valle and Ukraine’s representative attorney Niccolo Bertolini Clerici will address the jury at the end of the week. On July 5, defense attorney Donatella Rapelli will present  their closing arguments, and the verdict will be announced on July 12.

Senior sergeant of the National Guard of Ukraine, 29-year-old Vitaliy Markiv was arrested in Italy on June 30, 2017 on suspicion of killing Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian translator Andriy Mironov near Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast in May 2014. Markiv has consistently denied his involvement in the incident. The trial started on July 6, 2018.
Translated by: Christine Chraibi
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