Italy demands more than €1 million compensation from Ukraine for reporter’s death in Donbas

On 14 June, a court in Pavia, Italy, held one of the final sessions of the trial of Ukrainian National Guard commander Vitalii Markiv, who is accused of complicity in the death of the Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli in the Donbas five years ago.

The attorneys of the civilian plaintiffs – Rocchelli’s family and various journalist organizations – made their final addresses to the jury, Radio Svoboda reports.

They voiced their support for the prosecution’s theory, which states that on 24 May 2014, the accused provided the Armed Forces of Ukraine with information about the location of foreign journalists at the Zeus Ceramica factory in Sloviansk, a city in Ukraine’s Donetsk province which was under militant control at the time.

The plaintiffs’ representatives agreed with the prosecution’s assertion that Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian colleague Andrei Mironov were killed in a mortar shelling from Karachun, the mountain where the Ukrainian troops were stationed, and not by pro-Russian militants, who were also firing with heavy weaponry. The attorneys spoke positively of the separatists’ behavior, citing their own eye-witness journalists, who denied that the militants were responsible for the foreign reporters’ deaths.

Attorney Alessandra Ballerini, representing Rocchelli’s family, sharply criticized Ukraine for failing to investigate the circumstances and causes of the Italian photographer’s death. She considers this an insult to the victim’s family, who have lost faith in the Ukrainian government. As compensation, the attorney advises the jury to demand €1 million, €500,000 each for the victim’s mother and father, and €800,000 for his wife. Additional compensation for the photojournalist’s sister has been proposed by another attorney.

The representative of of the freelance photographer association Cesura Lab asked for €15,000 compensation from the defendant (the Ukrainian government). The funds would be used to organize professional courses for journalists in Italy.

The lawyer and politician Giuliano Pisapia, representing the Italian National Press Federation (FNSI) and the Lombardy Association of Journalists, did not disclose the amount demanded by his clients, presenting it to the court in writing. He said that the money would be used to protect Italian journalists.

The trial, which has been underway since 6 July 2018, will have three final sessions. Next Friday, leading defense attorney Raffaella Della Valle and Ukraine’s representative attorney Niccolo Bertolini Clerici will address the jury. On 5 July, Donatella Rapelli will present the defense’s conclusion, and the verdict will be given on 12 July.

Vitalii Markiv, a 29 year-old with dual Italian and Ukrainian citizenship, has been held for nearly two years in a prison in Milan. He was arrested on 30 June 2017 by Italian law enforcement at the Bologna Airport, where he had arrived with his wife on a holiday to visit his mother.

  Ukraine, Donbas, Italy