Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli was killed in Sloviansk, Donetsk, during armed confrontations between Ukraine and separatist forces in 2014. However, his death is being treated as more than just a casualty of war.
Ukrainian soldier Vitaliy Markiv stands accused of playing a key role in Rocchelli’s death and passing on information as to Rocchelli’s whereabouts to the military groups that fired the fatal shots. His trial began earlier this month in Pavia, Italy.
While the Italian prosecutors insist that the photographer’s death was deliberate, Markiv’s lawyers and the Ukrainian side argue that there is more to the case.
According to Italian journalist Danilo Elia, the status of the conflict in Donbas has been problematic for Markiv’s defense. The Italian prosecution argue that because the conflict was referred to as an Anti-terrorist Operation, and not a war, Rocchelli’s death must be considered as a murder.
Photo credit: HROMADSKE
The Italian journalistic community have also contributed to pushing the case against Markiv forward both in court and the media. The National Italian Press Federation, together with Rocchelli’s family, are in fact the plaintiffs in the case. This is reflected in the Italian media coverage of the case, which Elia describes as “biased.”
“I would talk mostly about mainstream media, who, again, are not so aware of the situation of the war in Ukraine, especially at that time. So it can be some little misinformation,” Elia adds.
The fact the charges against Markiv have already been reduced from murder to complicity could also suggest further changes and complications as the trial progresses.
Photo credit: HROMADSKE
“The court could maybe end up not sentencing Vitaliy Markiv as the only one responsible for the killing, but somehow pointing a finger at the Ukrainian army,” Elia told Hromadske.
What’s more, this is not the first investigation into the incident, which killed Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter Andrey Mironov, and injured French journalist William Roguelon. Two previous investigations have been unsuccessful. As Hromadske journalist Olga Tokariuk points out, the French investigation into Roguelon’s injury could not prove culpability on either side, and the Ukrainian investigation was closed due to limited access to occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.
However, as the trial is only in the early stages, it’s unlikely that Markiv will find out his fate any time soon. According to Tokariuk, the Italian legal system is “notoriously slow.” Markiv has been in pre-trial detention for one year already.
/By Sofia Fedeczko