Andrea Rocchelli

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Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and Andrei Mironov, a translator, were killed on May 24, 2014, while covering clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists near the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, according to regional and international media reports.

William Roguelon, a French photojournalist who was traveling with Rocchelli and Mironov, said they were hit by mortar fire as they were running from their car to take shelter in a ditch, The Associated Press reported.

The attack occurred in the village of Andreyevka, seven kilometers (four miles) from Sloviansk, according to the Kiev-based Institute of Mass Information. Both Rocchelli and Mironov died at the scene, according to Roguelon’s account of the incident, which was published by the National Press Photographers Association, and AgoraVox, a French citizen journalism news website that quoted a pro-Russian separatist fighter.

Roguelon, who worked for the French news agency Wostok Press at the time, was injured in the attack; both he and the driver survived, according to media reports.

Roguelon later told journalists that the attack came from the Ukrainian side, according to media reports.

According to Italian media, prosecutors in Pavia, Rocchelli’s hometown, began investigating his death in 2016 after studying footage from Rocchelli’s camera at the insistence of the journalist’s parents. The prosecutors also took testimony from Roguelon and Italian journalists who frequently traveled to the area around Sloviansk.

Italian investigators concluded that soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard under Vitaly Markiv’s command targeted the three men knowing they were journalists, and obtained a warrant for Markiv’s arrest in December 2016, according to Italian media reports.

On June 30, 2017, Italian police arrested Markiv, a dual Italian-Ukrainian citizen, on charges of murdering Rocchelli, Italian and Ukrainian media reported. In a hearing on July 4, 2017, prosecutors charged Markiv with premeditated murder, according to those reports.

During a July 8, 2017, meeting with the Italian ambassador to Kyiv, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov denied Markiv’s involvement in the journalists’ killing, saying the charges against him were “absurd,” Ukrainian media reported.

“We were targeted as journalists; the shooters knew that we were journalists. On four occasions, we were fired at by Kalashnikovs and mortars. [They] were trying to kill us,” Roguelon told French media on July 21, adding that he, Rocchelli, and Mironov were wearing vests and helmets with press insignia.

Markiv’s trial in Pavia began on July 6, 2019, with the prosecution asking for 17 years in prison on charges of involvement in Rocchelli’s murder, according to media reports. On July 12, a Pavia court sentenced Markiv to 24 years in prison for his involvement in the journalist’s death and ordered him to pay compensation to the Rocchelli’s family, media reported.

In response to the court’s decision, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov tweeted that the ruling was unfair and would be appealed. After the court ruling, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and expressed concern over the sentencing and promised that his government would assist with any expertise needed to further investigate the incident, Ukrainian news website Zerkalo Nedelii reported.

Markiv appealed the ruling, with a preliminary hearing held on September 29, 2020, after it was postponed from spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to news reports.

During the September 29 hearing, the defense requested to introduce new evidence and witnesses in Markiv’s case, including a documentary film about the incident, according to news reports.

On November 3, 2020, the Court of Appeal in Milan ruled to fully acquit Markiv, the privately owned Ukrainian Unian Information Agency reported. According to state-owned Ukrainian Ukrinform news website, after the verdict he was released from prison in Italy and returned to Ukraine.

Rocchelli, 30, was the founder of Cesura photo agency and contributed to various international publications including Newsweek magazine and Le Monde, reports said.

Mironov, 60, was a well-known Russian human rights activist with the prominent human rights organization Memorial. According to the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian service, both had documented human rights issues in conflict zones.