Italian photoreporter Rocchelli (pictured) died in Sloviansk with his interpretor Mironov. Screenshot from Youtube
Editor’s NoteThe case of Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv, sentenced by an Italian court to 24 years in prison, being convicted of killing two journalists in the eastern city of Sloviansk when it was a battlefield between Russian forces and their proxies and the Ukrainian army in 2014, is saturated with Russian propaganda. The court’s rationale for believing Markiv committed the crime — believing, as there is no proof — is a conviction that Ukraine (who is defending its country) is wrong and the Russian proxies (who are waging war against Ukraine) are right.
Upon this foundation, it becomes easy to believe that it was the Ukrainian army mistreating civilians and deliberately shelling them, that it was the Ukrainian side mistreating journalists, and, therefore, that it was a Ukrainian soldier who deliberately targeted journalists who wanted to expose how the Ukrainian army was mistreating civilians.
That, in short, is how the case was presented in the Italian court and most Italian media.
But this Russian-propaganda picture is not only contradicted by evidence proving Markiv could not have physically shot the journalists collected by a journalist investigation. It is contradicted by the journalists’ own materials. An archived version of their last report for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, published at the heat of the war in May 2014, paints a picture which is a far cry from the one articulated in the court. Olga Tokariuk, a Ukrainian journalist and one of the filmmakers of “Crossfire,” a documentary probing into the death of the two journalists, has told why in a Facebook post. Here we publish its translated version.
The court concluded that the Ukrainian military and Markiv deliberately wanted to kill “inconvenient” journalists and that it was a unilateral attack, a crime against the freedom of speech. This is based on the account of William Roguelon, a key witness, a French photographer who survived the attack.
Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov did real journalism and talked about the situation in Ukraine in its complexity. In their articles and photos, they told the situation in Sloviansk very differently from how it was presented in the case of Vitaliy Markiv by the prosecutors and the civil parties in the Italian court. This is confirmed by their last article for Novaya Gazeta, never mentioned to this day.
During the trial in the case of Vitaliy Markiv, the prosecution repeatedly stated that Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov documented the suffering of the civilian population in Sloviansk, which was, according to them, caused by the actions of the Ukrainian military. Instead, Andrea and Andrei, who were on the spot and knew the situation in Sloviansk, presented a much more complex picture.
A well-known photo of Rocchelli pictures a family with children hiding in a bunker in Sloviansk and accusing the Ukrainian army of shooting civilians. This photo was used to claim that the local population in Sloviansk suffered only from the actions of the Ukrainians and that the military in Kyiv was “fed up” with Rocchelli and Mironov because they talked about it. Nothing can be further from the truth.
Andrea Rocchelli also confirmed this in one of his latest messages sent to a friend:
“I told you, yesterday they invited us to a ‘Neighborhood Assembly’ of one of the most bombed ones – they are pissed because these rebels shoot mortars in the streets where people live, where then the response shots of the Ukrainian army fall causing damage, wounds, etc. Discontent is now visible. People don’t want war,” (quoted here).
Those who inquired about the situation in Sloviansk in 2014 also know that separatists carried out summary executions of the local population, representatives of religious minorities, and pro-Ukrainian activists.
They detained and threatened journalists, such as Simon Ostrovsky of Vice News, and OSCE representatives.
That there were not only local rebels who “wanted freedom,” but also – and above all – the Russian military, led by former Russian intelligence colonel Igor Girkin, currently accused in the case of the downing of flight MH17.
Aside from the story of the family in the bunker, they also did another interview, forgotten and never mentioned until today, which is still in the archives of Novaya Gazeta.
In this article, sent to the editorial office shortly before their death, they interview an elderly family, refugees from Chechnya, who describe the situation in Sloviansk.
These gentlemen have no doubt that Putin wanted the war in Donbas following the annexation of Crimea, and they support a united Ukraine. They too suffer from the war, but they have a very clear idea of who the aggressors in Sloviansk were.
Unfortunately, this article was never mentioned. Moreover, it serves to confirm that the ones being “fed up” with Rocchelli and Mironov – who was, among other things, a well-known dissident and enemy of Putin – and their work of true and independent journalism, may have been the separatists of Sloviansk.
Below, a brief summary of that interview:
Interview with the refugee family from Grozny in Sloviansk
Shortly before their death, Andrei Mironov and Andrea Rocchelli passed this article to the editorial office of Novaya Gazeta
Z.I. (wife): We want … for there to exist some state where they don’t shoot. We don’t want to go to Russia, I tell you the truth! We want Ukraine to exist, as it is, united, indivisible. But how it will be, I don’t know… Russia doesn’t need us, do you understand?..
Putin says he did not send his troops. But what are these soldiers shooting with? See, these self-defense [so separatists in Donbas called themselves], the people standing there alone, they didn’t have weapons. Where did these weapons come from? I’m from Putin, it’s clear! He said that in Crimea they did not have weapons, and instead later when he had a big meeting and met representatives in Moscow, he himself said:
‘22,000 of our best soldiers that fought in 15 countries, they are in Crimea.’ Ukraine has said it will not fire any shots. They lost little people, but they gave up Crimea!
Why doesn’t Putin withdraw his troops? He says, there’s a corridor, they can’t get out. But if he had ordered to create a corridor to escort all of these… Here, this self-defense standing there, normal people. Where did they find the weapons? They robbed the police office. They took all the guns when they arrived with this one, Ponomariov. But now they received all these new weapons. They fought in fifteen countries, Putin himself said! He did not say this about Sloviansk, he spoke of these soldiers in the Crimea. These, as they called them, ‘green men.’ And from there they were sent … Seleznyov, there are other names, who were sent here as commanders.
… And now they say on the radio that there were 16 volunteer soldiers [from the Ukrainian government troops – EP] near Donetsk, they arrived and the locals were taking pictures with them. As soon as they left, the soldiers were shot. And now this defense minister [of the unrecognized separatist ‘republics’ – EP] says: ‘We will have no mercy on anyone.’ But can this be done ?! Young boys, who enthusiastically went to protect their borders, were shot. And now they can’t take them out from Donetsk, Volnovakha. What is this? Terrible!
I.K. (husband): I don’t care who will be there (in power – Ed), only so that would be peace!
Z.I. (wife): And so they all say, the majority. Ukraine or Russia… It is okay that there are different opinions. Try to find an agreement! For us, it doesn’t matter if it will be Ukraine or Russia. But, of course, Ukraine must be indivisible.