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Ukrainian Ex-Fighter Acquitted Over 2014 Killing Of Italian Journalist

Vitaliy Markiv in an Italian courtroom earlier this month.

An Italian court has acquitted a Ukrainian man who was sentenced to 24 years in jail last year over his alleged role in the 2014 killing of an Italian photographer in eastern Ukraine.

An appeals court in the northern city of Milan on November 3 overturned the initial guilty verdict and ordered Vitaliy Markiv to be released from prison.

Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian colleague Andrei Mironov died after being hit by mortar fire near the town of Slovyansk as they were covering fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists.

Italian prosecutors have argued that Markiv, a volunteer fighter with the Ukrainian forces at the time, had taken part in the attack against the two journalists and accused him of being an accessory to murder.

Markiv, who holds joint Ukrainian-Italian citizenship, was arrested during a trip to Italy in 2017. He denied the charges.

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who attended the hearing in Milan, said Markiv “had nothing to do with this affair."

"All of Ukraine has been following this case and we are very happy," he told reporters.

Avakov told the Milan court that Markiv's case was "one of the components of a hybrid war waged by Russia against Ukraine."

Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman, Lyudmila Denisova, also welcomed the ruling in a Facebook post, calling Markiv “our Hero.”

“There is justice,” she wrote, adding that Markiv “is returning home with us.”

The conflict in Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has killed more than 13,200 people since April 2014.

With reporting by Reuters