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Ukrainian Ex-Fighter Acquitted In 2014 Killing Of Italian Journalist Returns To Kyiv

Ukrainian National Guard serviceman Vitaliy Markiv holds a Ukrainian national flag as he arrives at an airport in Kyiv on November 4.

KYIV -- A Ukrainian-Italian dual citizen whose conviction by an Italian court over the death of an Italian journalist during Ukraine's war with Russian-backed separatists has returned to Kyiv after having his sentence overturned.

Upon his arrival in the Ukrainian capital on November 4, former Ukrainian National Guard commander Vitaliy Markiv told reporters that he and his lawyers planned to seek compensation from the Italian authorities for his three years in custody.

"Those who tried to not just disgrace the armed forces of Ukraine but attempted to dishonor the Ukrainian people as a whole, must be held responsible," Markiv said after his return.

He said he planned to renew his service in the National Guard and spend more time with his wife.

Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and a Russian colleague, Andrei Mironov, died in May 2014 after being hit by mortar fire near the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk as they were covering fighting between Ukrainian troops and the separatists.

Italian investigators argued that soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard under Markiv's command at the time deliberately targeted the three despite knowing they were journalists.

Markiv, who has joint Ukrainian-Italian citizenship, has consistently denied the charges.

He was arrested during a trip to Italy in 2017 and sentenced in the high-profile case to 24 years in prison.

Then, on November 3, a court in Milan overturned the conviction and ordered Markiv freed from prison.

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