ATO Militants Again Targeted the Italian Embassy in Kiev in Defence of the Murderer Vitaly Markiv

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


In Ukraine the newly created holiday – Day of the volunteer, which was founded three years ago – was celebrated. In different cities of the country military personnel laid flowers at freshly-made monuments, and in Kiev participants of the ATO laid flowers at the monument to the so-called “Heavenly Hundred Heroes” on Maidan. The correspondent of the Federal News Agency (FAN) reported from the place of events.

To combine business with pleasure, nationalists marched to the Italian Embassy, where they in an aggressive manner once again demanded to release the Ukrainian Vitaly Markiv, suspected of murdering an Italian journalist.

The rally of ATO veterans began on Maidan in the damp Kiev morning. Formally, flower-laying at the memorial of the Heavenly Hundred was their main aim, but then the former soldiers intended to go to the Italian Embassy and again demand the release of the Ukrainian volunteer Vitaly Markiv, arrested in Italy on a charge of murdering the journalist Andrea Rocchelli.

In honor of the Day of the volunteer, the so-called veterans who gathered – about fifty people – brought along a modest bouquets of tulips. The press and local authorities weren’t that interested in the event – only a few journalists came, and the authorities didn’t even bother to allocate a unit of the National Guard to supervise proceedings. The fact is that a similar action was already carried out approximately a week ago, and back then the agitation surrounding it was much greater. This time it, seemingly, became almost boring.

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On Maidan veterans quickly unraveled the poster “Freedom to Vitaly Markiv!”, and they somehow routinely laid tulips they brought.

“We gathered in honor of the Day of the volunteer that is celebrated in Ukraine today. On this day the first voluntary battalion was officially created, which was then named in honor of General Kulchitsky. The purpose of our action is to liberate our colleague Vitaly Markiv who is now imprisoned in Italy, where he is accused of murdering a journalist,” loudly explained the commander of the Kulchitsky battalion Viktor Tolochko.

He noted that “the investigation already established that there was nothing illegal in Markiv’s actions, and that the weapon that the journalist Rocchelli was allegedly killed with wasn’t at all in the possession of the battalion”.

“Besides, the journalist was in Ukraine illegally, and that’s why we consider that it was a deliberate action to discredit the UAF,” summed up Tolochko.

As a reminder, the Ukrainian soldier Vitaly Markiv was detained in the summer of 2017 on suspicion of murdering the journalist Andrea Rocchelli in Donbass. Markiv is a former National Guard soldier, second-in-command of a unit of the Kulchitsky battalion, and senior sergeant, and is known under the call sign “Italiyanets”.

In 2003 he and his family went to Italy, where he graduated from technical college. He later worked as a DJ and a bodybuilding coach. Markiv returned to Ukraine during the time of the events on Maidan in the winter of 2014. At first he was an activist of “self-defense”, and then he entered into a voluntary battalion, which later became a part of the National Guard. Markiv was arrested in Italy on June 30th when he came to visit his mother during a planned holiday.

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At the time the media reported that Rocchelli and his translator Andrey Mironov came under a mortar attack in the village of Andreevka near Slavyansk. According to the Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, Rocchelli came to Slavyansk without coordinating this trip with the Ukrainian authorities.

In 2014 the French “Le Monde” wrote that during the attack the French newspaper photographer William Rogelon from the Wostok Press agency was also wounded. According to Rogelon, he, Rocchelli, the translator, and the driver came under attack by the UAF, left the car on the road, and lay down in a ditch. One of the shells exploded directly in a ditch, and Rogelon received fragmental wounds to his feet. His companions were killed.

The French reporter fled under fire to DPR positions, shouting that he is a journalist. He was put in a car and taken to hospital. Afterwards Rogelon also became the main prosecution witness – he specified that the death of Rocchelli and his translator turned out to be the result of a mortar attack by the National Guard unit commanded by Markov. Rogelon provided photo and video material as evidence.

But in Kiev they prefer to not know or remember everything. Having laid flowers at the memorial on Maidan, veterans of the column moved to the Khreshchatyk towards the Italian Embassy. Unlike last time, there wasn’t any police escort in front of the column, therefore the veterans didn’t go along the carriageway, but on the sidewalks. Along the way they habitually chanted “Glory to Ukraine!” and “Freedom to Vitaly Markiv!”, frightening passersby. All in all, the entire journey to the embassy took them no more than half an hour.

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The action at the embassy itself also turned out on orderly. Despite the working day, all doors and windows of the diplomatic mission were tightly battened down, and near it there were about ten national guardsmen. The same Tolochko read out an address to Italian diplomats, demanding a “fair trial” and “Markiv’s transfer to house arrest”. After that the participants of the picket performed some Ukrainian battle anthems using a special amplifier, then chanted threats to the Italian authorities. Literally 15 minutes from the beginning of the action its participants started rolling up the banners and, having several times cried out “Freedom to Markiv!”, began to disperse.

“What do you think, will you manage to convince Italian diplomats to do things so that the court acquits Markiv?” asked the correspondent of FAN to one of the participants of the action.

“No, I don’t think that it will happen, but we have to do something at least. Our brother-in-arms sits in prison practically for nothing! Perhaps it will be easier for him [because of the protest – ed],” he answered.

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