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Let’s get out of the bunker

There is a picture of Andy Rocchelli that strikes a chord more than any other one. It is the one depicting children hiding in the basement during the war in Ukraine. For getting a picture like that you need time. You need to gain the trust of the civilians, experience their own war, observe without judging.

Documents like this one make history, they condition our consciences and they end up addressing the history of the humankind. Documents like these ones can extract a drop of beauty in a ocean of sorrow, and maybe help us to improve ourselves.

Andy died in that war, killed in a rough attack tightened against civilian reporters. What happened is now an open wound for the whole community and for the people around Andy. But it is also a symbol of the permanent threat towards whom choose to be witnesses of the darkest side of our smashed humankind. It is thanks to them that we know and that we learn. It is thanks to them that we can roll up our sleeves and try to improve ourselves.

People like Andy Rocchelli, anywhere in the world, are accidental heros. It is our own responsibility to fight so that they won’t have to be that anymore in the future. They need to simply be what they were meant to be: our own conscience, our way of knowing, our right to improve ourselves.

It is for this exact reason that the trial currently held at the Pavia Court represent a civil fight of the highest symbolic value for everybody. It is necessary to find out what happened in that awful day in 2014. It is a must to find out the truth. It is mandatory to draw a line for reminding the community that crossing that line would mean commit an unforgivable crime  against the community itself.

More than ever now participation is required. Civil voices are required to arise and demand justice. For Andy, for reporters around the world and for all of us.

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22nd February 2019: hearing in the Court

Two agents of the of the Special Operation Squad testified:

  1. The first one reported that the images and videos projected many times during the trial were extracted by him from the devices confiscated to the accused. His deposition was short and very technical, focusing mainly on the modality of data extraction.

  2. The second agent instead took part to the investigations previous to the arrest of the accused, as well as to the following analysis of the confiscated material and the information released by the accused during the interrogatories. He gave a clear and detailed description of what emerged during the investigations and confirmed the position of the accused upon the Karachun hill, the type of weapon owned by the GNU and the corresponding range / pull length: all of this matched with the depositions so far, as well as the reconstruction of events done by the Pavia public prosecutor’s office and the one given by the journalist William Roguelon, who survived to the attack.

 

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8th February 2019: hearing in the Court

Two Senators of the Ukrainian Government were summoned to testify. After Vitaly Markiv was arrested in August 2017, both of them voluntarily presented themselves to the public prosecutor’s office of Pavia as the maximum experts of the event. Their deposition had been received and recorded by the Special Operation Squad in Milan: the two senators had given two contrasting versions of the events.
During the hearing, their versions has been analyzed again in front of the Court.
Both conversations have been extremely disagreeable due to the sense of reticence, weakening of the truth and significant will of not telling the truth to the Court, from the witnesses. Moreover there were many difficulties with the translation.

Bogdan Matkivskyi
In May 2014 he was on the Karachun hill from which the attack killing Andy and Andrej came. He was the head of the platoon 2 in Slaviansk, not the Markiv’s same one);

  1. Reticent towards the presence of written documents attesting Markiv’s presence in the site (documented by the selfie video found among the sequestered material): he also mentions some tables with orders, shifts and position of each soldier;
  2. Confirms that each soldier wouldn’t move from the assigned position;
  3. Underlines the difference among the role of the Ukrainian National Guard and the role of the Army: the first one is a reserve military unit subject to the Government, that was disbanded in 2000 and then funded again in March 2014. The controversial Azov e Donbass battalion are a part of the GNU and they are mostly made by Ukrainian, European and even Italian volunteers. The accused was part of the GNU. The Army is the legitimate army, subject to the Ministry of Defense and lead by the general Zabrowski.
  4. The senator also confirms that the Army used to have mortars as part of their equipment.
  5. The witness and the jury are shown a sketch made by the witness himself representing the peak of the Karachun hill and the positions of the military equipment and the accused. The sketch is confirmed and compared with the video selfie mentioned above, as well as with the different declarations granted during the conversations taken place in August.
  6. Recognizes almost all the names of the soldiers listed by the public prosecutor Zanoncelli.
  7. Even though he was on that hill on the 24th May 2014, the senator asserts that he only got to know around mid June or even July about the killing of Andy and Andrej.

Andrii Antonyschak
He is currently a senator in Ukraine and was one of the Heads of the National Guard. During the hearing he was wearing the singular uniform full of pendants. Following below are his declarations:

  1. He got to know about the events at least one month after the attack. He had never been on the Karachun hill before mid-June.
  2. No written orders for attained.
  3. Reticent regarding the National Guard territorial jurisdiction;
  4. The National Guard did not have mortars as part of their equipment;
  5. Markiv’s position: he could have seen the area of the attack if he had turned his head of just a few degrees. But the senator specify that it was not the soldiers’ task to turn…
  6. Recognizes some names of the other soldiers listed by the public prosecutor.
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25th January 2019: seventh hearing in the Court

The following professionals were summoned to testify:

  • Lieutenant Benedetto Vinciguerra: major Italian expert of ballistic and curved shot artillery; he teaches at the military academy in Rome, infantry unit. He recognized and explained the functioning and origin of the weapons/devices appearing in the photographic material confiscated to the accused, including the video taken on the Karachun hill – from where the shooting came – in which the accused frame himself. During the hearing, the Lieutenant Vinciguerra was shown the images of the screened by shoots and the testimony recognized that the holes on the car body were caused by mortar splinters and machine guns. The Lieutenant informed about the maximum distance each of the listed arms can get to: each of them would have been capable of covering the distance from the hill to the spot where Andy and Andrej were shot. Finally, the expert explained the need of an observer: who gives the target coordinates to the shooter, positioned with the mortar in a spot not much visible.
  • Chief of Police Napolitano: chief of prison police in Pavia; reported about the accused staying in the Pavia prison; the accused has been moved to the Opera prison for security reasons following proven evidences of an escape plan including attack to police agents.
  • Luca Trabalza: assistant of the Italian embassy in Kiev at the time of the investigations. He testified about the difficulties of setting a verbal contact with the Ukrainian public prosecutor’s office and receiving any type of feedback regarding the investigations carried in Slaviansk.
  • Lieutenant Russo: RIS in Parma; carried the chemical analysis on the materials found on Andy’s backpack, that detected the presence of trinitrotoluene traces and rdx, normally contained in mortar shoots and hollow charges.
  • Ballardini: coroner who carried out the second autopsy on Andy’s body at the San Matteo Hospital in Pavia. He confirmed what roughly reported in the medical report of the autopsy carried out in Ukraine. He also testified of not having ever received from Ukraine the evidences extracted from Andy’s body, the splinters.
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18th January 2019: sixth hearing in the Court

The members of the Special Operation Squad who investigated the case, testified. They were all asked to briefly describe their own professional background and their current roles within the Special Operation Squad.
The witnesses reported that the investigation developed in the following steps:

  • data extraction from Andy’s device systems (PC, camera’s memory card, mobile phone);
  • analysis of the anagraphic and online research, as well as the information provided by the questioned journalists, who testified in the hearing of 14th December 2018;
  • wiretapping of the communication channels used by Vitaly Markiv when he was under investigation;
  • data extraction from the accused Vitaly Markiv’s device systems seized when he was arrested: among other things, this step brought to light various photographic proofs showing how Ukrainian militias carried out all sort of violation of human rights torturing war prisoners;
  • defendant’s interrogation;

In the device systems of the accused various files were found, pictures and videos portraying the location where the Ukrainian artillery shot Andy and Andrej, the view on the factory in front of which the attack began and finally selfies taken by the accused.
The exact spot was identified by crossing the GPS coordinates transmitted by the photographer Roguelon to the Gendarmerie Francaise, the satellite images corresponding to those same coordinates and the documents seized from the accused.
The members of the Special Operation Squad provided a detailed and crystal clear description of the investigations and the reasons of the taken decisions.

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14th December 2018: fifth hearing in the Court

5 witnesses took the stand, 5 Italian journalists who were in Donbass on the 24th May 2014. As a preliminary question, each of them were asked to go through their own professional experience: as a result, it was obvious that the freelance reporters questioned are professionals who used to work in war zones and are not unexpert youngsters at all.

  • Francesca Volpi (photojournalist): after having a few ties in Kiev during the Maidan uprising, Volpi spent a few weeks among Crimea and Donbass she was also in Donetsk on the 24th May 2014. She met the accused on the 2nd of May 2014 and their conversation is reported in a unauthorized video (online open source), that was showed in the Court. Back then she also discovered that during a phone call with the journalist Marcello Fauci the accused stated that he had the order to shoot anything moving.
  • Andrea Carrubba (photojournalist): stayed at the same hostel where Andy, Andrej and William Roguelon slept. They had the chance to meet there and exchange information about places around Sloviansk. Carrubba reported to have identified Andy’s and Andrej’s bodies at the morgue and to have recovered Andy’s PC and other few personal belongings from the hostel room.
  • Marcello Fauci (photographer): he had met the accused in Kiev during the Revolution in Maidan. They communicated extensively till May 2014, when Fauci was in Donbass. The day that Andy was killed, Fauci spoke to Vitaly Markiv over the phone, getting insights on the situation: the accused recommended leaving because the area was dangerous for journalists and they, Ukrainian National Guard, were ordered to shoot at anything moving.
  • Ilaria Morani (journalist): she was working with Fauci in Donbass. On the 24th May 2014, she assisted the previously mentioned phone call, in Italian and via loudspeakers, and got it published on the Corriere della Sera. This article can be accessed following this link. Morani confirmed that the accused implied had a leading role in the stationing above the Karachun hill from which the Ukrainian heavy artillery was firing.
  • Michela Iaccarino (photographer): together with Carrubba she was involved in the identification of the corpses and the custody of Andy’s and Andrej’s belongings. Her Russian knowledge allowed her to get immediate information during the search for the bodies.

The defense notified the witnesses’ reliability in certain details detecting light discrepancies from the depositions granted in November 2016: words chosen, use of synonymous and other context details.

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30th November 2018: fourth hearing in Court

Opening, the defense attorneys of the Ukrainian Government objects the relevance of the bond between the defendant, Markiv, and Ukraine claiming that the Government is not responsible for the actions of their own employees if the emanation of the specific order executed is not proven. The Judge rejects their motion for Court dismissing the summons of Ukraine as civil responsible for the Rocchelli’s murder as included in the Rocchelli’s family summons submitted both in July and September, and already accepted then by the Court.
The hearing session was then entirely dedicated to deposition of the eye witness William Roguelon, survived to the attack besides being seriously injured. William was very clear headed and precise when telling what happened in the afternoon of 24th May 2014, answering precisely to the questions of Pavia’s public prosecutor and the lawyers. During the almost 2 hour report, video and photographic material was shown in support of his declaration. Among other things, William recognized the taxi covered in bullet holes framed in a video, and he underlined how the taxi initially had its bright sign and therefore was impossible to confuse it with a military car.
Moreover, he explained how a civil suit parallel to the Italian penal trial, the French Government recognized William as the first journalist victim of war crime and ratified his right to be refunded. And this case will become a precedent in the French jurisprudence.
It was published the agenda for the following hearing: 14th December 2018; 18th and 25th January 2019; 8th e 22nd February; 15th, 22nd and 29th March; 12th April.

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Chronology

24th May 2014: Andrea Rocchelli and Andrej Mironov are killed in Sloviansk. William Roguelon, seriously injured, survived after the assault.

Summer 2015: Since no feedback came from the Ukrainian authorities for more than one year after requests for information, Italian diplomatic representatives in Kiev and Pavia’s public prosecutor’s office, lead an international letters rogatory towards the Kiev Attorney.

May 2016: answering to the international letters rogatory, the Ukrainian authorities submitted to the Italian Ministry of Justice Ministero a substantial dossier in Ukrainian. In summary, it says it is impossible to know who killed Rocchelli and Mironov and injured Roguelon.

July 2017: Vitaly Markiv is arrested on charges of having been, together with others, part of the assault that was deadly for Rocchelli and Mironov.

17th May 2018: during the preliminary consultation at the Court of Pavia, the Judge rejects the nonsuit motion arisen by Markiv’s defense and decides the start of the trial.

December 2017 – January 2018: the Milan trial Court, appointed following the motion of the investigated Markiv’s Defense, for the re-examination of the legal action for the pre-trial detention order decided by the Pavia’s Public Prosecutor, on one hand rejected the Defence’s petition sentenced to cover the processual expenses, on the other hand confirmed again the warrant of the Pavia’s Public Prosecutor. In its report, the re-examination court concluded that «subsist momentous clues of guilt against the appealer [Markiv]» and that «it is not conceivable any attenuation of the pre-trial detention regime».

6th July 2018: first hearing of the trial at the Pavia’s Assize Court against Vitaly Markiv, indicted of Andrea Rocchelli’s murder, 24th May 2014. The Cesura photographers collective, the Italian Newspaper National Federation and the Journalist Lombardy Association joins the penal action as civil party.

14th September 2018: second hearing in Court. second hearing in court on A.R. family’s motion to the court to call into the proceeding the Ukrainian Government. The notification of the request to join the proceeding was dismissed for formal exemptions. The proceeding is adjourned for the notification to be submitted to the subject authorities according the procedure requested by those authorities.

23rd November 2018: third hearing in Court. Following to its summons, the Ukrainian Government, designated two defence attorneys. Their petition to refer again was dismissed by the judge. Pavia’s Public Prosecutor reported: a) repeated anonymous messages and phone calls in Ukrainian language just before the hearing; b) the “reversed” rogatory by Ukrainian authorities to the Italian Ministry of Justice, asking for the entire file of investigations so far to be sent to Ukraine and for Andy’s parents to be heard by a Public Prosecutor. With the aim of reducing costs and time, Public Prosecutor’s request to include in the case file of the proceeding some declarations given by witnesses for the defense has been granted, with no need of hearing them in the Court hall. On the defense motion instead, two Ukrainian senators and the driver of the car Andy and Andrei were traveling in will be heard. Two depositions followed: the first one, by the Pavia Carabinieri’s lieutenant Maurizio Pappalardo who explained the first investigation carried out, the second one by Luca Majocchi, EdilCeramica CEO, representative for the Zeus Ceramica factory in front of which Andy and Andrej were killed. Majocchi specified the positioning respectively the pro-Russian separatist and the Ukrainian nationalist armed groups in Spring 2014 within and outside the factory.