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News Wrap: Ukraine announces plan to pull troops from Crimea

March 19, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
Crimea Recognised As Sovereign State By Putin
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Toyota now formally admits it misled consumers and regulators over unintended acceleration problems in its cars that triggered global recalls. The automaker agreed to pay $1.2 billion, the largest such federal penalty ever imposed on an auto company. We will take a closer look at the case right after the news summary.

In Ukraine, the new leaders in Kiev announced they’re drawing up plans to evacuate Ukrainian troops from Crimea. This came in the face of Russian moves to consolidate their grip on the breakaway province.

Pro-Russian militiamen pushed their way into part of the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol this morning. Shortly afterward, the Russian flag was raised at the entrance, as the Ukrainian servicemen gave way.

OLEKSANDER BALANYUK, Navy Captain, Ukraine (through interpreter): There is nothing we can do against the crowd, nothing. Everything happened spontaneously. There were many promises from the Russian side and our side that the base will not be stormed, that all issues will be resolved through political means, but, as you see now, there was a takeover.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The takeover came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty aimed at annexing Crimea. In response, Ukraine’s national security minister called today for turning Crimea into a demilitarized zone as it tries to withdraw its troops. And he announced joint military exercises with the U.S. and Britain.

But Crimea’s new prime minister appeared unfazed. He banned Ukrainian officials from entering the region and called for other parts of Ukraine to follow Crimea’s lead.

SERGEI AKSYONOV, Prime Minister, Crimea (through interpreter): This patriotic rise that we have in Crimea and in Russia today that united us all, regardless of our political views or political parties, should continue and spread over to southeastern Ukraine.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, indeed, pro-Russian militia members took up positions today outside Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine. They said they were ready to block any western forces from entering.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and European Union again pressed Moscow to relent. Vice President Joe Biden was in Lithuania, where he pledged the U.S. will defend its NATO allies and that Russia will pay a price for seizing Crimea.

VICE PRESIDENT JOSEPH BIDEN: As long as Russia continues on this dark path, they will face increasing political and economic isolation. There are those who say that this action shows the old rules still apply, but Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In a bid to resolve the crisis, the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, left this afternoon for talks in both Moscow and Kiev.

We will talk with Margaret Warner, on the ground in Eastern Ukraine, later in the program.

Israeli airstrikes blasted Syrian military posts today, killing one soldier and wounding seven. The raids happened in southwestern Syria, near the Israeli-occupied part of the Golan Heights. Israel said it was retaliation for a roadside bombing in the Golan that wounded four Israeli soldiers. Suspicion for that attack fell on Hezbollah, the Shiite militia allied with Syria.

The FBI has stepped up its role in the hunt for a missing Malaysian airliner. U.S. officials said today the bureau is helping analyze deleted data from the pilot’s flight simulator. That word came amid an uproar at the Malaysian government’s daily briefing.

We have a report from Lucy Watson of Independent Television News. She’s in Kuala Lumpur.

LUCY WATSON: A mother’s anguish for the whole world to see captured just moments before the media briefing, after traveling thousands of miles to beg for answers.

This pandemonium is because the relatives have now been taken inside this room behind me by officials. They came here this morning because such is their frustration and distress towards the Malaysian government at the lack of information they’re getting, some 12 days on now, hidden away because, earlier, they dared to voice their anger.

WOMAN (through interpreter): Please, help me bring my son back. I just want to see my son. So many days have passed, and nobody from the government has come to see me.

LUCY WATSON: Yet, on a day of great drama, the investigation made little progress. The search is now focusing more on the southern Indian Ocean, the most remote and furthest point where the aircraft would’ve run out of fuel.

But there are still guards outside the pilot’s home. And police continue to analyze data from his flight’s simulator, some of which he removed.

DATUK SERI HISHAMMUDDIN HUSSEIN, Transport Minister, Malaysia: Some data has been deleted from the simulator, and forensic work to retrieve this data is ongoing. I would like to take this opportunity to state that the passengers, the pilot and the crew remain innocent until proven otherwise.

LUCY WATSON: It’s not what they came to hear. And this wasn’t what they wanted. But this is an unprecedented event.

JUDY WOODRUFF: First lady Michelle Obama is headed to China for a six-day visit. White House officials say it is not intended to address any policy issues. Instead, Mrs. Obama is scheduled to spend a day with the Chinese president’s wife focusing on education. Later, she and her mother and two daughters will visit cultural and historical sites.

The governor’s race in Illinois began in earnest today, one of the year’s toughest campaigns, in a state with one of the hardest-hit economies. Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner won Tuesday’s Republican primary, spending $6 million of his own money.

This morning, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and Rauner were already swapping charges over the minimum wage and economic leadership.

GOV. PAT QUINN, D-Ill.: A billionaire with nine mansions calling for a reduction in the minimum wage and taking $2,000 out of the pockets of everyday people who are doing the best they can.

BRUCE RAUNER, Gubernatorial Candidate, R-Ill.: I’m proud of the businesses we have built. I’m proud of the success we have brought. And I wanna bring that success to Springfield, run it more like a business, make it efficient, effective, transparent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats have held the governor’s office in Illinois for more than a decade.

The Federal Reserve signaled today it may start raising short-term interest rates sometime next year. That would follow the end of the Fed’s stimulus program, which it dialed back another notch today. The combination didn’t go down well on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 114 points to close at 16,222. The Nasdaq fell more than 25 points to close at 4,307. And the Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped 11 points to finish at 1,860.

We will hear some of what Fed Chair Janet Yellen had to say today later in the program.