Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists are staging rival shows of force amidst a growing risk of violent escalation. Ukrainian soldiers moved in to retake government buildings from the separatists on Tuesday, sparking at least one clash in a provincial airfield. Meanwhile, separatists in the town of Kramatorsk seized armored personnel carriers and a tank from the Ukraine army. Ukraine and Russia will be joined by the United States and the European Union for talks beginning Thursday in Geneva. It is the first time Russia and Ukraine’s foreign ministers will meet face to face since the crisis began. At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney said the Obama administration backs Ukraine’s incursions to retake buildings from the separatists.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We appreciate the government’s statements that any actions it undertakes will be gradual and responsible, and we agree that the use of force is not a preferred option. That said, the Ukrainian government has a responsibility to provide law and order, and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond. The best way to de-escalate this situation is for the armed militants to leave the buildings they have seized.”
A U.S. air strike in eastern Afghanistan has reportedly killed three civilians. The victims were identified as a woman and two children who may have been camping in tents. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the attack a violation of U.S. and Afghan agreements. The U.S.-led NATO force says it is investigating.
The Iraqi government has closed the Abu Ghraib prison, site of the notorious U.S. abuse scandal that helped bring Bush-era torture policies to light. Iraq’s Justice Ministry says it has shuttered Abu Ghraib over fears it could be overrun by Sunni militants. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the release of photos that showed U.S. forces torturing Abu Ghraib prisoners.
The U.N. Security Council held a session Tuesday to view photographs documenting alleged war crimes by the Assad regime in Syria. A team of three international prosecutors has obtained images from a Syrian defector showing emaciated and mutilated bodies likely resulting from torture. The defector is said to be a military investigator who handed over thousands of photographs he had taken of the regime’s victims. David Crane, chief prosecutor at the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal, said the images provide direct proof of “industrialized” killings by Assad.
David Crane: “Our conclusion in the report was that the photographs and the witness himself are credible and sustainable in a court of law at the international or domestic level and that what he brought out over a period of two years is direct, specific, provable evidence of widespread and industrialized killing not seen recently. And the reason I underscore this is, and I’ll highlight it again, it’s a rare thing in our business that we get this type of direct evidence. But it’s direct, provable, sustainable, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity being conducted by the Assad regime.”
Anti-government rebels in Syria have reportedly obtained a shipment of U.S.-made missiles for the first time. Agence France-Presse reports a unit of the Free Syrian Army received the TOW missiles from a “Western source.”
Hundreds of people are missing after a passenger ferry sunk in waters off the Korean Peninsula. The South Korean ship was carrying close to 500 people on board. Around 180 have been rescued so far. At least two people are confirmed dead.
An owner of the Bangladesh garment factory where hundreds of people died last year is facing charges of murder. The collapse of the eight-story Rana Plaza was one of the worst industrial disasters in history, killing 1,135 garment workers and injuring more than 2,500. Bangladeshi police say they will charge Sohel Rana with murder as part of indictments that include around 40 other people. The disaster’s one-year anniversary is next week.
The New York City Police Department is disbanding a controversial spying unit that targeted Muslim communities. The so-called Demographics Unit secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and built a vast database of information. But after years of collecting information, it failed to yield a single terrorism investigation or even a single lead. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from domestic spying. In a joint statement, the groups Muslim Advocates and the Center for Constitutional Rights called the decision a “long overdue first step,” saying: “What has to stop is the practice of suspicion-less surveillance of Muslim communities, not just the unit assigned to do it.”
Retired firefighters and police officers in Detroit have reached a deal that would mostly protect their pensions in the face of pressure to accept massive cuts. The workers are among some 30,000 retired and active public employees who have faced threats to their retirement benefits following the bankruptcy filing by Detroit’s emergency manager last year. Under the new agreement, members of the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association will keep their pension benefits. But cost-of-living increases will be cut in half. The deal is the first between Detroit and a group of public workers since the bankruptcy process began. It is contingent on more than $800 million in outside funding from charities, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the state of Michigan. The Obama administration is also reportedly in talks to add $100 million in federal aid.
A ceremony was held Tuesday to mark the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. Three people were killed and 264 were wounded when a pair of homemade bombs exploded near the race’s finish line. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and bombing survivor Patrick Downes, who lost a leg in the attack, paid tribute to the community response and the resilience of survivors.
Gov. Deval Patrick: “The thing we witnessed in the aftermath of that vicious attack last year, and that I submit we are here today to celebrate, is precisely that sense of community, that enduring and transcendent display you and so many others showed last year of kindness and grace.”
Patrick Downes: “To our fellow survivor community, what would we do without each other? We should have never met this way, but we are so grateful for each other. We have shared our despair, sense of loss and challenges, as well as our hope, gratitude and triumphs.”
Oklahoma has enacted a measure that bars local officials from raising the minimum wage. The new law blocks an effort underway in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.