Ukraine’s Friend and Foe of the Week
Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
Ukraine’s Friend of the Week: The Milan Court of Appeal
It doesn’t happen every day that one comes home from work, starts scrolling evening news, and urges a joyful shout: “Wow! That’s one big surprise!”
That was the reaction of many in Ukraine to the sudden acquittal of Vitality Markiv, a Ukrainian National Guard member, who had been convicted and sentenced by an Italian court to up to 24 years in prison.
The investigation accused Markiv of murdering Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchell and his Russian fixer Andriy Mironov during the battle of Slovyansk in the early days of Russia’s war in the Donbas in May 2014.
Markiv grew up in western Ukraine and migrated to Italy when he was a teenager. Later, he obtained Italian citizenship.
During the EuroMaidan Revolution that ended Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency in 2014, however, he got back to Ukraine to join the pro-democratic mass protests, and when Russia-backed forces started the war in the Donbas, he volunteered for military service.
In 2017, he came to Italy to pay a visit to his mother and was arrested in the city of Bologna.
From the start, this case was full of controversies, confusions, emotions, politics — and most of all, just wild amounts of Russian disinformation.
According to the Italian prosecution’s initial indictment, Senior Sergeant Markiv, as a deputy platoon commander with Ukraine’s 1st General Kultchiskiy Operational Battalion, knowingly ordered to fire 30 mortar rounds upon a location in which journalists were hiding.
Then, it turned out that Markiv’s combat formation did not operate any mortars at that time. The prosecution still insisted and accused Markiv of opening fire with small arms and then spotted the Ukrainian Armed Forces mortars against the journalists.
Then, after dozens of expert evaluations on the ground, it turned out that Markiv was over 1,700 meters away from where the journalist was killed and could physically see the spot due to the local landscape.
The Ukrainian police found a witness, a local man who was also allegedly trapped in the shelling on that day. He testified that the group was shelled not from the direction of Ukrainian positions but that of Russian-backed militants. The witness’s words were later confirmed by last video footage by killed Rocchell — showing that they were attacked from a distance of only 200-300 meters and from the direction of Russian-backed militants.
Pieces never fully fitted the prosecution’s constantly changing version of events. Nonetheless, the court sentenced Markiv to shocking 24 years in prison.
His case seemed to be a lost cause despite Ukraine’s top leadership, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, being involved in the process at the highest levels.
Few in Ukraine expected the trial of appeal in Milan to end up in a more or less positive way. Yet, the court’s decision gave our country the brightest piece of news in a very, very long time.
Now, Markiv is back in Ukraine and says he intends to stay serving our nation.
And we should offer our respect to the Milan court for heeding the voice of reason and the overwhelming evidence of the Ukrainian sergeant’s innocence in the case.
In many ways, in the wake of the severe crisis over our Constitutional Court, this decision reminded us of the fact that the judicial authority can and must be a source of ultimate justice, and that it is worth fighting for in our own country.
Therefore, the Kyiv Post declares the Milan Court of Appeal our friend of the week. Any institution that is truly serving the spirit and the word of law and justice is our absolute ally.
Foe of the Week: Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson
Russian propaganda is so aggressive that it creates and maintains its own worldview in public space.
It works so well that that one often can’t tell the difference between the speeches of Russian official spokespersons and hosts of brainwashing political TV shows, which incite hatred particularly against Ukraine and Ukrainians each and every day.
And no one cares if this artificial agenda has nothing to do with reality.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mariya Zakharova, who is absolutely no stranger to weird public stunts and dummy statements, kindly offered the world yet another example of brainless agitprop.
During an Oct. 29 briefing in Moscow, she asserted that “Ukraine wages an overt war on the Russian language and violates the rights of Russian-speaking citizens that are stripped of access to literature, movies, TV shows and education in Russian.”
This rampage was a reaction to the Ukrainian TV and radio communication’s recent ban on a children’s book that glorifies Russia (which actually wages a war against Ukraine since 2014) and also the Communist regime (which is officially condemned in Ukraine equally with Nazism).
Well, let us break a piece of shocking news: In Ukraine, anyone willing to speak Russia is free to do so. For a big share of Ukraine’s population, Russian is their mother tongue. And anyone speaking Russian in Ukraine can get almost any legal content in Russian any minute: YouTube videos, news outlets, movies, music, you name it.
Those who do not believe us are more than welcome to visit Ukraine and witness this.
And guess what language, besides obviously Ukrainian, is spoken on a regular basis by a great share of Ukrainian military service members, including combat units defending the Donbas from Russia-backed militants.
Dumb propagandistic narratives contradict simple reality. And yet they inspire hatred towards Ukraine and justify the Russian aggression with the need to “protect the oppressed Russian-speaking population.”
Sorry, Maria, we don’t need your country’s protectorate. Your patrons in the Kremlin have already lost trust from Ukrainians for good. The language card could have worked out against us in 2014, but not today.
After all, a bunch of KGB mafia oligarchs getting fat on Russia’s oil and gas does not have a monopoly on the Russian language — and Ukraine couldn’t care less about their opinion.