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News Wrap: Massive landslide engulfs village in Afghanistan

May 2, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The government of Ukraine launched a major military operation today against pro-Russian separatists in the east. Their target was Slavyansk, and Ukraine’s president reported many insurgents were killed or wounded, but not without cost.

James Mates of Independent Television News is there. He filed this report.

JAMES MATES: Helicopters in the dawn sky above the city of Slavyansk, the start of the biggest Ukrainian offensive since this crisis again.

But it was a bad start, the flash in this video one of their aircraft being hit. The camera tracked it until it crashed. Pro-Russian fighters cheered as they watched it fall. The ease with which they hit two helicopters and this bit of footage suggest some sophisticated weaponry is being used, possibly supplied from across the border.

The Ukrainian offensive appears to have stalled on the outskirts of the city. We found troops taking up positions on the routes in and out of Slavyansk, with no sign they’re about to move further. This is just one part of the ring that Ukrainian forces have now thrown up around the town of Slavyansk.

Where once there was a pro-Russian roadblock, they have taken it over, set up their own. There are armored personnel carriers stationed up the road there with dozens of troops, but confronting them here, angry villagers, furious about what happened this morning. They are the soldiers of their own army and yet these people see them as invaders come to occupy.

“I’m standing here to stop Ukrainian troops getting into Slavyansk,” this woman told me.

At another checkpoint nearby, they went further, trying physically to block the path of armored vehicles, repeated volleys of shots fired over their heads doing very little to deter them. If they do try to move into the central Slavyansk, dozens, possibly hundreds of well-organized defenders are there to meet them.

They have captured armored vehicles and some are very professional-looking troops. In a city still full of civilians, it would get very ugly. As the world watched the east of Ukraine, the southern city of Odessa erupted in brutal fighting that has left four people dead so far.

Here, pro-Ukrainians are not a minority and are fighting back fiercely. With reports of live ammunition being used and the police nowhere to be seen, it is starting to look perilously like the early stages of a civil conflict.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, there was word of 38 more deaths in Odessa in a building fire linked to the fighting.

At least 350 people were killed today in a massive landslide in Afghanistan, and local officials said 2,000 others may be trapped. The U.N. mission in the country said the slide engulfed a village in the mountainous northeast. Reports from the area said about a third of the homes there were buried under the mud.

In Syria, the government agreed to a cease-fire in a city once known as the capital of the revolution. Under the deal, hundreds of rebels could begin leaving Homs tomorrow. That would hand the regime a major victory. The city’s been under heavy attack for some weeks.

About 200 people were injured today in South Korea when one subway train rammed another. It happened in Seoul, where some 4.5 million passengers ride the metro system each day. Officials said most of the injuries were minor. The wreck followed a ferry disaster that killed hundreds last month.

President Obama says a botched execution in Oklahoma this week was deeply troubling. The condemned man went into convulsions after a lethal injection and ultimately died of a heart attack.

Today, the president said he supports capital punishment, but he wants a broad review of its use.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We have seen significant problems, racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty. And all these, I think, do raise significant questions about how the death penalty is being applied. And this situation in Oklahoma, I think, just highlights some of the significant problems there.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Attorney General Eric Holder will carry out the review.

On Wall Street today, the violence in Ukraine weighed on investors. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 46 points to close below 16,513. The Nasdaq fell three points to finish under 4,124. And the S&P 500 was down two at 1,881. For the week, all three indexes gained about 1 percent.