Military commanders of Markiv arrested in Italy to testify in his defense


Ukrainian MPs – former military commanders of Vitaliy Markiv arrested in Italy, met his lawyer as well as provided him with the testimony and supporting documents. MPs emphasized positive developments in the case especially for what concerns institutional cooperation between Ukraine and Italy.

Vitaliy Markiv, a senior sergeant of the General Kulchytsky battalion of the National Guard of Ukraine, was detained on June 30, 2017, in Italy and charged with the murder of the Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli. Rocchelli and the Russian human rights defender Andrey Mironov who was helping the journalist were killed in the attack outside of Sloviansk, Donetsk region, in May 2014.

If the cooperation between the Ukrainian and Italian sides keeps pace, chances for the positive result in the case of the arrested Ukrainian military Vitaliy Markiv increase considerably. It was stated by the former military commanders of Markiv from the National Guard’s General Kulchytsky battalion, who are currently Ukrainian MPs – Andriy Antonyshchak (faction Petro Poroshenko Bloc) and Bohdan Matkivsky (independent) after their visit to Pavia, Italy. During their visit, they had meetings with Ukraine’s General Consul in Milan, Markiv’s lawyer Raffaele Della Valle and with representatives of the Ukrainian community in Italy. They did not succeed to meet Markiv himself.

Witnesses for the defense

“Yesterday talking to the lawyer we gave preliminary testimony. I, as the commander of the General Kulchytsky battalion, told about the special operation that was taking place outside Sloviansk, Bohdan Matkivsky as a platoon commander told about the orders he was receiving. It coincided with the testimony of Markiv. The lawyer said that our testimony is valuable and can overturn the case,” said Andriy Antonyshchak at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. At the moment, the lawyer Della Valle is drafting an appeal to the prosecutor asking to include Antonyshchak and Matkivsky as witnesses in the case as well as make it possible for the prosecutor to interrogate them in Pavia, Italy.

Insufficient work by the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine

MP Antonyshchak said that in 2015 the Italian side addressed Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine five or six times, and was receiving formal replies. “Their queries concerned the status of the senior sergeant Markiv, provision of testimony and of the legal assistance. Unfortunately, it never happened. That’s why a separate criminal proceeding was started in Italy,” the MP said.

“We explained to the Italian side that there is a new Prosecutor General in office with a new team. It makes them trust Ukraine more,” Antonyshchak said. According to the MP, the actual vice prosecutor general Yevhen Yenin was the first one to go on alert just an hour after Markiv was arrested. He also expressed the official protest to the Italian side. The MPs’ visit became possible thanks to the detailed work of evidence collection, in which the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine played one of the key roles.

Extension of investigation and the visit to Ukraine

The MPs also established a dialogue with the Prosecutor Andrea Zanoncelli who is in charge of the case. According to them, the Prosecutor agreed to consider new evidence. The visit of the Italian side to Ukraine is already being planned. Nine more people are to be interrogated, their testimony may potentially be included in the case. A site visit to near the Karachun hill where the incident happened is also planned. Thus, the Prosecutor and the lawyer received the documents stating that Markiv was serving with the National Guard at that time, he was not part of an illegal military formation. They also provided the proof that the unit in question – the first reserve battalion of the National Guard, had no mortars in service at that time.

Currently, preparations and translation of documents continue to help clarify the case circumstances. According to Antonyshchak, Ukrainian MPs, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Guard of Ukraine are drafting letters stating their readiness to provide legal assistance. As a next step, the Italian side will be adopting a decision on whether to address the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine on the provision of the international legal assistance. After the Ministry’s approval, preparations of the visit of the Italian side will start.

Conditions in detention

The next court hearing will take place not earlier than September, Antonyshchak said. MPs added that the Ukrainian consul and the family of the Ukrainian have unimpeded access to Markiv. Vitaliy himself does not complain anything, his morale is high, he attends the gym. This week Markiv met his family for the first time. The second meeting is to take place either on July 22 or on July 24.