Photo from UNIAN

An Italian appellate court in Milan has postponed a hearing in the case of Ukrainian national Vitaliy Markiv, who is challenging a 24-year sentence for his role six years ago while serving in the Ukrainian National Guard that involved the deaths of an Italian photojournalist and his Russian interpreter.

Lawyers for the defendant told RFE/RL on March 8 that the court in the Lombardy region had decided to hear the case on March 31 due to government-imposed measures that have banned public gatherings.

The measures were introduced on March 7 in much of the country’s north and have since been extended nationwide amid an outbreak of a new respiratory illness known as COVID-19 that has killed 463 people and infected 9,172 in Italy.

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As UNIAN reported earlier, deputy platoon commander of the Ukrainian National Guard's first battalion, senior sergeant Vitaliy Markiv was detained in Italy on June 30, 2017, on suspicion of the murder of Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter Andrei Mironov amid a mortar attack in Donetsk region in May 2014.

Read alsoUkraine's president, Italy's PM discuss Markiv case

According to the Ukrainian investigation, the two were killed in shelling by Russian-led troops.

Ukrainian National Guard officials insisted that the Ukrainian battalion was not armed with mortars in 2014. The jury in the court of Italy's Pavia on July 12, 2019, sentenced the Ukrainian guardsman to 24 years in prison. He is also to pay compensation to Rocchelli's family. Zelensky ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prosecutor General's Office to immediately address the issue of Markiv's return to Ukraine.

On November 20, Ukraine filed an appeal against Markiv's verdict. It is to be considered by a Lombardy appellate court in the spring of 2020.

In February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, on his first official visit to Italy, spoke about Markiv's case in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, as well asPope Francis in Vatican.