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Markiv case: Milan court gives reasons for Ukrainian soldier’s release and accuses Ukraine

Markiv case: Milan court gives reasons for Ukrainian soldier’s release and accuses Ukraine
On January 21, 2021 the Milan Court of Appeals issued a statement explaining its motivation for the verdict in the Markiv/Rocchelli case – Vitaliy Markiv is not guilty of killing Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian activist and interpreter Andrei Mironov, but Ukraine and its military are responsible.

The Court of Appeals claims that there is no clear evidence of Markiv’s presence at the combat position of the Ukrainian army – Mount Karachun, near then-occupied Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast – between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on May 24, 2014. Therefore, since his guilt cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, Vitaliy Markiv must be acquitted.

“It is impossible to confirm that Markiv intentionally helped the soldiers deployed on Mount Karachun identify the foreign journalists and thus, was directly involved in the killings.” stated the judges.

However, the Milan Court of Appeals, like the court in Pavia, believes that the death of Rocchelli and Mironov was not at all accidental.

“It was a deliberate and targeted attack on a group of foreign reporters by Ukrainian forces deployed on Mount Karachun. In no way did Mironov, Roguelon or Rocchelli or the pro-Russian militants provoke or attack the Ukrainian position.”

The Italian judges state that soldiers of the Ukrainian National Guard and the Armed Forces of Ukraine deployed on Mount Karachun spotted a group of people from a distance of about two km, identified them as journalists (how, as the journalists were not wearing press symbols?) and were ordered to open fire. In other words, not only does the court reject the possibility that Russian hybrid forces opened fire, but the judges also insist that the Ukrainian soldiers committed a premeditated murder of civilians.

The Milan court also underlined that the Ukrainian military, in particular Markiv’s National Guard commanders – Bohdan Matkivskyi and Andriy Antonyshchak – should have testified in Pavia not as witnesses but as suspects, and should have been warned of their right to remain silent so as no prejudice would be caused to the accused. It is for this reason that their testimony was not taken into account by the Milan Court of Appeal.

The Rocchelli family and the Italian National Press Federation also issued a statement about this affair. The Rocchelli family believes that Ukraine’s responsibility was duly established during the trial, and justice must now be done. The Italian National Press Federation calls on the Italian authorities to appeal to concerned Ukrainian institutions to provide all the investigation materials pertaining to the deaths of Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov. Neither party has as yet stated whether it will file an appeal.

Defence lawyer Raffaele Della Valle called the Milan court’s claims as to Ukraine’s responsibility in this affair totally absurd and refrained from further comments.

Defence lawyer Niccolo Bertolini Clerici outlined his views on the subject:

“During the appeal hearings in Milan, the Pavia version of Ukraine’s responsibility in the deaths of these men was again raised and examined, but neither Ukraine nor the Ukrainian army were condemned. The state of Ukraine was a party to the proceedings as a civil defendant because a Ukrainian soldier was on trial. Markiv was declared not guilty. He is free… so Ukraine withdrew from the trial.”

       The Markiv Case

  • Deputy platoon commander of the Ukrainian National Guard’s First Battalion, senior sergeant Vitaliy Markiv was arrested in Italy on June 30, 2017, and charged with complicity in the killing of Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter and human rights activist Andrei Mironov during a mortar attack at Mount Karachun near then-occupied Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast on May 24, 2014.
  • According to the Ukrainian investigation team, the two journalists were killed during heavy shelling by Russian mercenaries.
  • Ukrainian National Guard officials pointed out that in 2014 the Ukrainian battalion deployed on Mount Karachun was not armed with mortar systems.
  • On July 12, 2019, the Pavia court sentenced Ukrainian National Guardsman Vitaliy Markiv to 24 years in prison. He must also pay compensation to Rocchelli’s family.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prosecutor General’s Office to immediately address the issue of Markiv’s imprisonment and his return to Ukraine.
  • Markiv’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal against the verdict pronounced by the Pavia court. On November 20, 2019, 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.
  • The appeal hearing was scheduled in the Milan Court of Appeals in the spring of 2020.
  • On March 10, 2020, due to the spread of COVID-19, the Court of Appeals in Milan postponed the hearing of the case.
  • The Milan Court of Appeals began reviewing the case against Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv on September 29, 2020.
  • Vitaliy Markiv was acquitted by the Milan Court of Appeals on November 3, 2020. He returned home to Ukraine the next day.
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