We got the truth, but not justice yet

The Vitalyi Markiv acquittal verdict reasons declared by the Court of Appeal of Milan mark a crucial turning point in the trial for the murder of Andy Rocchelli and Andrej Mironov. We deeply looked into the acquittal reasons and we want to share a summary, in addition to a consideration of ours, because this document brings many important facts. 

All the defense  requests for the investigation renewal are rejected. The reliability of the key witnesses is confirmed. In particular, the document defines as unfounded the defense criticism towards the depositions of the photographer William Roguelon and the Italian journalists. Finally, the reconstruction of the events done by the Pavia Assize Court are confirmed to be correct and extensively proven. Let’s briefly recap the main points of the events reconstruction of the events that have been so difficult to piece together, but that have been confirmed once again by the Court of Appeal.

Andy and Andrei went to a place that had previously been bombarded, but they went there when no conflicts were happening at that moment. They went there to carry out their professional activity as war photojournalists. They were identified by the Ukrainian National Guard having them all the elements to identify them as civilians: from their clothes to the taxi sign. As it is reported at page 58 of the document with the reasons of the sentence, “Those people informed the captains who gave the order to shoot also informing the army about the coordinates for pointing the mortars against them”. There were not russian supporters, nor provocations. In the document again is written “It was an order illegittemily given, because violating the regulations aiming to protect the civilians”. Following that, the shoots aimed at the target lasted half an hour and had the physical elimination of the journalists. 

This is the truth, and it is a truth bringing heavy implications. In Sloviansk, the Ukrainian Army committed crimes against humanity, violating the international law. Andy didn’t go to the wrong place, he had not been imprudent, he didn’t happened to be in the crossfire. Andy was murdered together with his colleague Andrej, following a deliberated order by the Ukrainian chain of command with the aim of getting rid of them.

Therefore, why and what does imply Markiv’s absolution? 

It is due to a procedural mistake. It is proven that Markiv was working in service on the Karachun hill the day of the attack. The only element that situated him surely in the position from where the attack started is linked to a series of depositions by fellow soldiers and superiors, among which his direct superior, Bogdan Matkiwsky. As for those people subsisted evidences of link, the criminal code establishes that their depositions could only be given in presence of a defensor and following a specific ritual, making those depostions not less trustworthy, but inadmissible from a procedural point of view. The reasonable doubt comes from that: it is known that Markiv was there, but it is known thanks to evidences that are not admissible. It is known that the Ukrainian army is guilty, but the the civil responsibility of the army is juridically linked to Markiv’s penal sentence. Therefore, since the latter is absolved due to shortage of evidences, the Ukrainian responsibility is not juridically admissible either.

To sum it up, it is known what happened, it is known who was due to, but it is not possible to have justice, due to a formal fault. What is missing is justice here, not the truth. This is why we cannot give up: we go ahead by the side of Andy’s family along the path till the Court of Appeal. We understand that the penal procedure must respect the juridical rules, but we cannot accept that a wicked crime against humanity that violates the Geneva Convention is left unpunished just due to a quibble. We understand the law, but there is no justice yet. The path is still long and difficult. The path of human beings is like that, made of small big achievements, but also of high obstacles and cheap shots. We hold tight to the truth achieved, but surely do not stop there. Now we want justice. And we carry on.


TRUTH WITHOUT JUSTICE. Explanation for a verdict of acquittal

On January 20th the Court of Justice of Milan issued the full documentation inherent to the verdict of acquittal of soldier V.Markiv, released on November 3rd 2020.These are the key points:

  • the appeal court wholly reconfirm the dynamics of events and responsibilities of the double murder as reconstructed by the state prosecution in Pavia (p.63);
  • the testimony delivered by French photographer William Roguelon is absolutely reliable and crucial to understand how things went, as well as those delivered by the other journalists interrogated in court during the I grade trial (pp. 40, 57, 59);
  • the requests brought up by the defense (further ballistic tests and admission of the movie The Wrong Place) were rejected because deemed not relevant to the current matter (p.29, 30).
  • a formal flaw was detected in one of the 1st grade court hearings: the soldiers who came to Pavia in June 2019 to testify in favor of Mr. Markiv were not correctly informed of the ritual formulas “right to silence” (right not to remain silent when asked) and “all statements can be used against their speaker in upcoming trials”. This flaw determines the complete invalidation of the soldiers’ declarations -nevertheless their content remains valid: Mr Markiv’s colleagues and officers actually strenghtend the thesis developed by the state prosecution concerning Markiv’s role and position on Karachun Hill (p.69).
  • the sudden lack of those evidences as well as the lack of any picture or record catching the indicted in action on May 24th 2014 in that precise place hinder the court to rule a guilty verdict. Hence the acquittal for lack of evidences (p.69).

The documentation doesn’t exonerate the Ukrainian National Guard from the charges but rather denounces the deadly act of violence committed against unarmed journalists at work. These pages bring back an established truth that has been very often twisted and deformed within the past months in the name of a superficial yet ferocius campaign, both in Italy and abroad.


After the appeal sentence: the official position of the Scapigliate Volpi

A week went by since the acquittal of Vitaly Markiv, ordered by the Milan court of justice at the end of the appeal process meant to attest the responsibility of Andrea Rocchelli’s and Andrej Mironov’s deaths. As Volpi Scapigliate we feel the urge to state firmly our position and our future goals for the common good.

We strove and we’ll always strive for truth and justice for Andy and for his family, well aware that this story belongs to the sadly big bulk of violated human rights, endangered press freedom and denied access to news and information. We’re in the wider frame of those civil conflicts, chronically deregulated and violent, that mark the threshold between XX and XXI century.

Taking someone’s side is not our aim. Nor taking revenge on someone else. Since we got together as a group, we put our efforts in defending the public institutions and we’ll keep doing so.

We deem that the dynamics of events reconstructed by the state prosecutor in Pavia is solid, well structured and indeed trust-worthy: it was confirmed by the 1st grade trial, which we attended in person. This report is a big step forward, towards truth and justice, and nobody can take that away from us. Nevertheless, we know too well that without a smoking gun the 2nd grade jury might have decided that the evidence brought by the state prosecutor was not enough to confirm the verdict of guilty issued by the 1st grade court. For this reason we’ll wait for the reasons of the jury to be published, within the next 90 days. That’ll make a huge difference: perhaps lack of evidence? Or not the faintest idea of who murdered Andy and Andrej?

And then comes justice. We know for sure that the Ukrainian army targeted Andy and Andrey with mortar fire for about forty minutes, till the physical annihilation of the two journalists. That’s about it. This has severe implications within the international law frame. We believe that in case the EU would take a stance on what happened, we’d see an improvement in the lives of those journalists and civilians trapped in dirty wars. 

Therefore we’ll keep pushing, no matter what. The full motivations issued by the 2nd grade jury might define our short term moves but not our strategy. We’ll aim to attest the dynamics of the facts and deepen our knowledge of what happened. We’ll do what we’re capable of in order to put this case under the spotlights. We won’t give up the fight for the right to information and keep foster protection for journalists and reporters, especially in those conflictual places were the states’ legal framework fades away.

One last thought on what happened throughout this trial. Threatening phone calls, intrusive emails directly addressed to the court, Ukrainian senators showing up in the court-room. Attempts to persuade the Italian Prime Minister, military mottos shouted in court and Ukrainian Prime Minister Zelensky’s tweets thanking the “Italian team” for Markiv’s acquittal. We’d like to make clear that we do not accept such filth. We do not play in this “team”. We’re different and we’ll keep insisting, trusting the Italian institution and fiercely aiming to a better world.

And if that wasn’t clear yet: we’re more determined than ever.