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News Wrap: Ukraine’s interim leaders issue warrant for Yanukovych

February 24, 2014 at 6:01 PM EST
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GWEN IFILL: The interim leaders in Ukraine issued a warrant today for ousted President Viktor Yanukovych for the killings of protesters. Yanukovych fled Kiev over the weekend for the eastern pro-Russian half of the country.

We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: The city of Sevastopol is in Ukraine, but as its now daily demonstrations show, the flag its people show allegiance to is the Russian one.

It’s here the fugitive former President Yanukovych is now believed to have sought sanctuary at a Russian naval base. If true, Russia’s President Putin is unlikely ever to hand him over. Still celebrating the end of his Sochi Olympic party, his prime minister today made Russia’s anger at what’s happened abundantly clear.

“Some of our Western partners,” he said, “think there’s a legitimate government there. It’s strange to call a government legitimate when it’s the result of an armed uprising.”

The closest the Ukrainians may now get to Yanukovych is the treasure trove of documents he left behind, many dumped in a river now being meticulously dried and sorted, damning evidence for a trial that will probably never happen.

OLEG KHOMENOK, investigator: We have part of the financial documents revealing the whole system of the money laundering that was established here to supply Yanukovych’s regime with the money and to provide the money for construction of these whole luxury palaces.

JAMES MATES: More worrying is the continued lack of any visible authority in the capital, Kiev, any group with a grievance now taking to the streets demanding they get what they want.

This is what happens when you go several days without proper police forces. Here, you have a group of football supporters trying to force their way into Parliament demanding the release of one of their own from jail. Over here, the so-called self-defense forces, a ragtag army with clubs and improvised helmets waiting to secure Parliament, not really knowing who gives them orders.

Two politicians promised an immediate vote in Parliament, and within half-an-hour, two men convicted of murder under the old regime were ordered to be freed. The euphoria of revolution can wane very quickly. What comes next is not always an improvement.

GWEN IFILL: Russia’s suspended an economic bailout agreement with Ukraine, but the White House says the U.S. is ready to step in. The new authorities in Kiev are seeking $35 billion over the next two years. We will have much more on the fast-moving developments there right after the news summary.

In Venezuela, protesters blocked off streets in the capital, Caracas, as opposition to President Nicolas Maduro intensified. The demonstrators erected barricades of trash and other debris across major thoroughfares, bring traffic to a halt. But there were no reports of violence. There have been nationwide protests since February 12 and at least 11 deaths.

The interim prime minister of Egypt has announced the resignation of his Cabinet. It could pave the way for military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run for president. The announcement came amid strikes by public transport workers and garbage collectors. Egypt has seen political turmoil since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the military last July.

A new anti-gay law in Uganda took effect today, imposing sentences of up to life in prison for engaging in homosexual relations. President Yoweri Museveni signed the measure into law in Kampala. He said it’s needed because the West is promoting homosexuality in Africa.

PRESIDENT YOWERI MUSEVENI, Uganda: No study has shown that you can be homosexual purely by nature. Society can do something about it, to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the bill.

GWEN IFILL: Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. Gay activists have vowed to challenge this new law in court. And President Obama has warned the statute will harm relations with the U.S.

The Pentagon served notice today that it wants to downsize the U.S. Army, to the smallest it’s been in 74 years. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed reducing active-duty levels by roughly 80,000 and cutting several major weapons systems. We will explore the proposal in detail, later in the program.

The longest serving member of Congress ever is calling it a career. Michigan Democrat John Dingell has announced he won’t run for reelection. During 57 years in the House, he became a powerful deal-maker and committee chair, and helped pass everything from the Endangered Species Act to Medicare to the Affordable Care Act.

But, at 87, he said today he’s ready to step down.

REP. JOHN DINGELL, D-Mich.: I put myself to the test. And I want to know when the time comes whether I can live up to my own personal standards as a member of Congress. I’m going to give the last that I can assuredly give and the last that I can proudly to my people.

GWEN IFILL: Dingell was first elected in 1955 to the seat his father had held since 1933. The elder Dingell died in office.

Pope Francis has announced the first major overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy in 25 years. He unveiled plans today for a new secretariat to control economic, administrative, personnel and procurement policies. Francis was elected pope pledging sweeping reforms.

On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 104 points to close at 16,207. The Nasdaq rose 29 points to close just short of 4,293.

One of the comedy stars of the ’70s and ’80s, Harold Ramis, died today at his Chicago-area home. He helped write and starred in “Ghostbusters,” co-wrote and directed “Caddyshack,” and also co-wrote “Animal House.”  Ramis had battled an autoimmune disease for four years. He was 69 years old.