Andrea Rocchelli's passport is photographed on May 25, 2014, the day after his death. (AFP)
Andrea Rocchelli's passport is photographed on May 25, 2014, the day after his death. (AFP)

Italian police arrest Ukrainian man accused of killing photojournalist

New York, July 6, 2017–Italian authorities should fully investigate and prosecute all those responsible for the 2014 death of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli in Ukraine, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Italian police on June 30 arrested Vitaly Markiv, a dual Italian-Ukrainian citizen, on charges of murdering Rocchelli, Italian and Ukrainian media reported. In a July 4 hearing, prosecutors charged Markiv with premeditated murder. According to Italian and Russian media reports, Markiv exercised his right to remain silent.

Rocchelli, founder and photojournalist of Cesare photo agency, was on assignment near the city of Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine when he, his Ukrainian fixer, Andrei Mironov, and French photojournalist William Roguellon were caught in fighting between the Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists on May 24, 2014, CPJ reported at the time. Russian and Ukrainian officials each blamed the other side for killing Rocchelli and Mironov.

According to Italian media, prosecutors in Pavia, Rocchelli’s hometown, began investigating the killing in 2016 after studying footage from Rocchelli’s camera at the insistence of the journalist’s parents. They also took the testimony of Rocchelli’s colleague, Roguellon, who was wounded in the same attack, and other Italian journalists who have frequently traveled to the area in Ukraine where Rocchelli was killed to investigate his death.

Italian investigators concluded that soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard under Markiv’s command targeted the three men knowing they were journalists, and in December 2016 obtained a warrant for his arrest, according to media reports. Police arrested Markiv when he arrived at Bologna airport for his first trip to Italy since Rocchelli’s death, the reports said.

“We call on Italian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into all those responsible for the death of photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli in Ukraine,” CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said. “Ukrainian authorities should fully cooperate with their Italian counterparts and send a signal that reporters cannot be killed with impunity.”

In a July 1 statement, the Ukrainian National Guard expressed “concern” over Markiv’s arrest. The same day, Ukraine’s deputy prosecutor-general, Yevgenii Yenin, wrote on his personal Facebook page that his office was “surprised” by Markiv’s arrest, and that it had requested additional information from Italian police.