The jury is expected to give its verdict on 12 July in the trial in Pavia, Italy of Vitaly Markiv, a Ukrainian National Guard soldier accused of involvement in the deaths during the first months of the war in Donbas of 30-year-old Italian photojournalist, Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter, Andrei Mironov. The prosecutor has demanded a massive 17-year sentence despite very real concerns about both the charges and the evidence provided to back them.

During her final address on 5 July, one of Markiv’s lawyers, Donatella Rapetti dismissed the prosecutor’s assertion that her client’s guilt had been proven, called the charges absurd and asked for Markiv’s full acquittal.

She rejected the prosecution’s assertion that the men were killed by mortar fire, and said that, in fact, the studies carried out did not make it possible to state with certainty what the weapon was that killed them, and what direction it was fired from.

29-year-old Markiv has dual Ukrainian and Italian citizenship, which made it easy to arrest him on 30 June 2017, when he arrived in Italy to visit his mother. He has been held in detention ever since, although the initial charge of murder was changed to the much more vague ‘involvement’ in Rocchelli’s death before the trial began.

It is by no means common for Ukrainian soldiers to also have Italian citizenship, so the odds against such a soldier also happening to be a person directly implicated in the death of Rocchelli on 17 May 2014 near Sloviansk seem rather high.

Markiv’s knowledge of Italian does, however, explain how he came to be known to Rocchelli, and also to another Italian journalist, Ilaria Morani, whose article on 25 May 2014, appears to have led to Markiv’s arrest. This wrongly identifies Markiv as a captain of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and quotes him as warning them to stay clear of the military zone. He supposedly goes on to say: “We don’t usually shoot in the direction of the city or civilians, however where we see movement, we load heavy artillery. This is what happened to the car with the journalists and the interpreter. We shoot from here within a kilometre and a half. There is no clearly delineated front here. It is not a war like Libya. There are actions scattered throughout the city, we await only the green light for the final attack ”

Markiv himself did not have access to such artillery, and the actual recording of this telephone conversation was not kept. There were also discrepancies between the testimony of Morani and her colleague, Marcello Fauci, who had actually spoken with Markiv, as to when the telephone conversation took place, in which language and as to whether Rocchelli’s death had been mentioned.

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