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Italy acquits Ukraine soldier of war deaths: report

November 3, 2020

An Italian court on Tuesday acquitted on appeal a Ukrainian soldier jailed for the murder of a photographer and his translator during the war in eastern Ukraine, news agencies reported.

Former national guard commander Vitaliy Markiv had been sentenced last year to 24 years in prison for the killing of Italian photographer Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian assistant Andrei Mironov in May 2014.

The pair were hit by shrapnel from mortar shells during a fierce firefight between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in the rebel-held east.

But Markiv appealed the sentence and Kiev also said its own investigation had exonerated him.

On Tuesday, a court in Milan overturned the verdict and ordered his immediate release, the AGI news agency reported.

“Vitaly Markiv is free! Ukraine has been waiting for these words for three years!” Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Facebook, thanking “everyone who fought… for the victory of truth and justice”.

“I’m very happy. I’ve always believed the judges would make the right decision. My son is innocent,” AGI quoted Markiv’s mother as saying.

Markiv, who also has Italian citizenship, was arrested in June 2017 after arriving on a flight from Ukraine and has since been held in several prisons in Italy.

Rocchelli, 30, was the founder of the Cesura photo agency and a contributor to leading media organisations such as US magazine Newsweek and the French daily Le Monde.

More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine that erupted in 2014 after a popular uprising ousted a pro-Kremlin president and Russia responded by annexing Crimea.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.