Diana Markiv Hopes for Husband’s Freedom
An Italian court sentenced a Ukrainian man to 24 years in prison for his alleged involvement in the murder of an Italian journalist and translator in 2014 in the Donbas. Activists around the world challenge the verdict while his relatives hope for an acquittal
“On June 30, we arrived at Bologna airport, and got off the plane. Vitaliy’s stepfather met us. We drove literally 600 meters from the airport, when the carabinieri surrounded us. There were many people, many journalists. We collected all our documents and belongings, and they took Vitaliy into their car. A carabiniere got into our car and we drove to a police station, where Vitaliy was interrogated. They let us go, but not Vitaliy,’ Diana Markiv said.
Vitaliy Markiv was accused of killing Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli and his interpreter Andrey Mironov. This took place in Donbas back in 2014. The charge was later changed to complicity in murder.
Markiv was a volunteer soldier who took part in battles near the city of Sloviansk. At that time, it was controlled by pro-Russian militants.The city was constantly under fire. Andrea Roccelli and French journalist William Roguelon arrived in occupied Sloviansk to report about the war.
“They were at the very center of a military conflict. All their colleagues knew that they should not be there at that time. It was a flashpoint. Obviously, they were shooting from both sides. It was a war,” Oles Horodetsky, the head of the Orthodox community in Italy.
Rocchelli and his interpreter came under fire and died. William Roguelon survived and testified in court. He said that it was Ukrainian soldiers who opened fire. His evidence was the only grounds for imprisoning Markiv for 24 years.
“Roguelon never saw a Ukrainian soldier in real life. He just said that, in his opinion, there was shooting from the Ukrainian side. But he didn’t say he had seen it. So, it turns out, he simply decided this was the case. It is not objective. At the trial, he said that they had fired from the left side. Our soldiers were 2 kilometers away from the murder scene — on Karachun Hill, which is behind. When Roguelon was explaining what he saw, he denied Vitaly’s guilt. But when he began to express his assumptions, he accused him of being guilty. It is just his guesswork,” Horodetsky said.
At that moment, there were hundreds of soldiers near Sloviansk. It is unclear why Vitaliy Markiv was charged with the murder. Italian prosecutors said it was Markiv who informed the Ukrainian military of the whereabouts of the journalists. The soldiers, in turn, fired at them with mortars.
The grounds for Markiv’s sentence will be known only in mid-October. For now, he is being held behind bars. He writes letters to his loved ones and calls them.
“We are allowed to call each other once a week and have a 10-minute talk. Every week, he sends me a letter, and I do the same,” Diana Markiv said.
Here is a fragment of a letter Vitaliy sent to his grandmother in the Ternopil Region. He jokingly calls her “baba-zhaba,” a toad granny.
“Don’t worry too much and stay away from hospitals. I still want my dear Toad Granny to look after my kids and her great-grandchildren. Take care of yourself and don’t worry much. When mom comes here, she always brings greetings from you and says that you pray for me. Please, thank your friends and colleagues for their prayers and worries. I am sincerely grateful to them. I read your prayers again and again and always turn to God before going to sleep. Just like when I was at war,” he wrote.
Markiv’s lawyers are planning to appeal his verdict, but it will be possible only 2-and-a-half months from now – after the court publishes its rationale for the ruling. Markiv’s lawyers will appeal the verdict in Milan in 2020.