Russia on Saturday was reported to be reinforcing its military presence in Crimea as Moscow's foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine's new authorities, whom he dismissed as puppets.
Vladislav Seleznyov, a Crimean-based spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, told The Associated Press that witnesses had reported seeing amphibious military ships unloading around 200 military vehicles in eastern Crimea on Friday night after apparently having crossed the Straits of Kerch, which separates Crimea from Russian territory.
He also said a convoy of more than 60 military trucks bearing no license plate numbers was headed from the eastern city of Feodosia toward the city of Simferopol, the regional capital.
The amphibious operation appeared to be one of the largest movements of Russian military forces since they appeared in Crimea a week ago.
Selenyov said AP: "Neither the equipment nor the paratroopers have insignia that identify them as Russian, but we have no doubt as to their allegiance."
An AP reporter sighted the convoy Saturday afternoon 25 miles west of Fedosia. In the backs of the vehicles, heavily armed soldiers could be seen, though none appeared to have identifying badges or insignia. Soldiers spat at reporters following the convoy.
The Ukrainian military spokesman also said that in Simferopol, several dozen armed men on Saturday broke into a military warehouse containing Ukrainian military goods.
The regional parliament in Crimea has set a March 16 referendum on leaving Ukraine to join Russia, and senior lawmakers in Moscow said they would support the move, ignoring sanctions threats and warnings from U.S. President Barack Obama that the vote would violate international law.
The strategic peninsula in southern Ukraine has become the flashpoint in the battle for Ukraine, where three months of protests sent President Viktor Yanukovych fleeing to Russia. A majority of people in Crimea identify with Russia, and Moscow's Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol, as is Ukraine's.
While the U.S. and the EU urged Russia to engage in dialogue with new Ukrainian authorities, the Kremlin has refused to do so, denouncing the change of power in Ukraine as an "unconstitutional coup."
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow sees no sense in having a dialogue with Ukraine's new authorities because, in his view, they kowtow to radical nationalists.
"The so-called interim government isn't independent, it depends, to our great regret, on radical nationalists who have seized power with arms," he said at a news conference. He said that nationalist groups use "intimidation and terror" to control Ukraine.
On Friday evening, pro-Russia soldiers tried to take over a Ukrainian base in a tense standoff that lasted for several hours.
Lt. Col. Vitaly Onishchenko, deputy commander of the base, said three dozen men wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms arrived late Friday. While one group climbed over a wall on one side of the base, another crashed a heavy military truck through the gates, Onishchenko said.
He said Saturday that they turned off power, cut telephone lines and demanded that about 100 Ukrainian troops, who barricaded themselves into one of the base buildings, surrender their weapons and swear allegiance to Russia. The invaders left around midnight.
No shots were fired in and no injuries were reported.
In the week since Russia seized control of Crimea, Russian troops have been neutralizing and disarming Ukrainian military bases there. Some Ukrainian units, however, have refused to give up. Crimea's new leader has said pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 now control all access to the region and have blockaded all military bases that haven't yet surrendered.
Russia has denied that its forces are active in Crimea, describing the troops who wear green uniforms without insignia as local "self-defense forces." But many of the troops, who are armed with advanced heavy weaponry, are being transported by vehicles with Russian license plates.
Onishchenko said the troops who tried to overrun his base were clearly Russian.
"These were Russian servicemen specially ordered," he said. "Their watches were set to Moscow time. They spoke with Russian accents and they didn't hide their allegiance to the Russian Federation."
Russia's President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow has no intention of annexing Crimea, but says its people have the right to determine the region's status in a referendum.
The Crimean referendum has been denounced by Ukraine's new government, and Obama has said it would violate international law. The U.S. moved Thursday to impose its first sanctions on Russians involved in the military occupation of Crimea.
Speaking on BBC on Saturday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that while there is no military response to the recent events of Crimea, the crisis was a reminder of threats to European security and stability.
"I do believe that politicians all over NATO will now rethink the whole thing about investment in security and defense," he told the BBC. "Obviously, defense comes at a cost but insecurity is much more expensive."
Vietnamese air force planes on Saturday spotted two large oil slicks close to where a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 went missing earlier in the day, the first sign that the aircraft carrying 239 people had crashed.
The air force planes were part of a multinational search operation launched after Flight MH370 fell off radar screens less than an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning.
The oil slicks were spotted late Saturday off the southern tip of Vietnam and were each between 10 kilometers (6 miles) and 15 kilometers (9 miles) long, the Vietnamese government said in a statement. There was no confirmation that the slicks were related to the missing plane, but the statement said they were consistent with the kinds that would be produced by the two fuel tanks of a crashed jetliner.
Two-thirds of the missing plane's passengers were from China, while others were from elsewhere in Asia, North America and Europe.
Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said there was no indication that the pilots had sent a distress signal, suggesting that whatever happened to the plane occurred quickly and possibly catastrophically.
At Beijing's airport, authorities posted a notice asking relatives and friends of passengers to gather at a nearby hotel to wait for further information, and provided a shuttle bus service. A woman wept aboard the bus while saying on a mobile phone, "They want us to go to the hotel. It cannot be good."
Relatives and friends of passengers were escorted into a private area at the hotel, but reporters were kept away. A man in a gray hooded sweatshirt later stormed out complaining about a lack of information. The man, who said he was a Beijing resident but declined to give his name, said he was anxious because his mother was on board the flight with a group of 10 tourists.
"We have been waiting for hours and there is still no verification," he said.
The plane was last detected on radar at 1:30 a.m. (1730 GMT Friday) around where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand, authorities in Malaysia and Vietnam said.
Lai Xuan Thanh, director of Vietnam's civil aviation authority, said air traffic officials in the country never made contact with the plane.
The plane "lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam's air traffic control," Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said in a statement.
The South China Sea is a tense region with competing territorial claims that have led to several low-level conflicts, particularly between China and the Philippines. That antipathy briefly faded Saturday as China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia all sent ships and planes to the region.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that Malaysia had dispatched 15 planes and nine ships to the area, and that the U.S. Navy was sending some planes as well. Singapore, China and Vietnam also were sending aircraft.
It's not uncommon for it to take several days to find the wreckage of aircraft floating on the ocean. Locating and then recovering the flight data recorders, vital to any investigation, can take months or even years.
"In times of emergencies like this, we have to show unity of efforts that transcends boundaries and issues," said Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the Philippine military's Western Command.
After the oil slick was spotted, the air search was suspended for the night and was to resume Sunday morning, while the sea search was ongoing, Malaysia Airlines said.
The plane was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. It said there were 152 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven from Indonesia, six from Australia, five from India, three from the U.S., and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Italy, Taiwan, the Netherlands and Austria.
In Kuala Lumpur, family members gathered at the airport, but were kept away from reporters.
"Our team is currently calling the next of kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support," said Yahya, the airline CEO. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."
Fuad Sharuji, Malaysia Airlines' vice president of operations control, told CNN that the plane was flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,670 meters) when it disappeared and that the pilots had reported no problem with the aircraft.
Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Najib said, "We are looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks."
Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.
Airliner "black boxes" — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — are equipped with "pingers" that emit ultrasonic signals that can be detected underwater. Under good conditions, the signals can be detected from several hundred miles away, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. If the boxes are trapped inside the wreckage, the sound may not travel as far, he said. If the boxes are at the bottom of an underwater trench, that also hinders how far the sound can travel. The signals also weaken over time.
Air France Flight 447, with 228 people on board, disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1, 2009. Some wreckage and bodies were recovered over the next two weeks, but it took nearly two years for the main wreckage of the Airbus 330 and its black boxes to be located and recovered.
Malaysia Airlines said the 53-year-old pilot of Flight MH370, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, has more than 18,000 flying hours and has been flying for the airline since 1981. The first officer, 27-year-old Fariq Hamid, has about 2,800 hours of experience and has flown for the airline since 2007.
The tip of the wing of the same Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200 broke off Aug. 9, 2012, as it was taxiing at Pudong International Airport outside Shanghai. The wingtip collided with the tail of a China Eastern Airlines A340 plane. No one was injured.
Malaysia Airlines' last fatal incident was in 1995, when one its planes crashed near the Malaysian city of Tawau, killing 34 people. The deadliest crash in its history occurred in 1977, when a domestic Malaysian flight crashed after being hijacked, killing 100 people.
In August 2005, a Malaysian Airlines 777 flying from Perth, Australia, to Kuala Lumpur suddenly shot up 900 meters (3,000 feet) before the pilot disengaged the autopilot and landed safely. The plane's software had incorrectly measured speed and acceleration, and the software was quickly updated on planes around the world.
Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200s in its fleet of about 100 planes. The state-owned carrier last month reported its fourth straight quarterly loss and warned of tougher times.
New poll numbers show big differences in the oft-maligned millennial generation.
The wide-ranging study conducted by Pew shows millenials, or those falling into the 18 to 33 age group, differ from previous generations — like Generation X and the baby boomers — in everything from politics to views on marriage.
In a write-up accompanying the study, Pew notes, "They are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future."
Specifically, the research found as many as 50 percent of millennials describe themselves as political independents. Though they also tended to lean left, supporting President Barack Obama and embracing liberal policies more than older generations. (Via KTTV, KARE)
According to a writer for The Wire, that could mean bad news for Republicans.
"For the Republican Party, it's hard to see Pew's new survey of American millennials as very good news. … Pew walks through a number of social issues, finding younger people more likely to support same-sex marriage, legal marijuana and immigration reform."
The study also found millennials tend to differ from previous generations on traditional American institutions like religion and marriage as well.
And when it comes to marriage, just 26 percent of millennials have tied the knot. That's compared to 36 percent of Gen Xers, 48 percent of baby boomers, and 65 percent of members of the silent generation, when they were at the same age. (Via Pew)
The study also revealed a bit of a paradox when it comes to education and economic issues.
Though millennials are the most-educated group of young adults in American history, they also have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment than the two generations preceding them. (Via YNN)
Interestingly, only about half of Millennials describe themselves as patriotic, the lowest of any of the last four generations. Though about the same number say America’s best days are ahead of it — the highest of any of the generations. (Via Pew)
A 19-year-old in California was charged Friday with the shooting death of his parents.
KABC reports Ashton Sachs is accused of killing Bradford and Andra Sachs in their multi-million dollar home. Prosecutors also accused Sachs of shooting his 8-year-old brother, leaving him paralyzed, and trying to shoot his 17-year-old sister.
That 8-year-old brother is still in the hospital nearly a month after the shooting. Sachs is currently charged with two counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder. (Via KCBS)
Sachs was living in the Seattle area for college, but KNBC points out police say he came back to San Juan Capistrano, near Los Angeles, last month with the intention of killing both of his parents.
After the shooting, it took police almost a month to find a suspect.
The Los Angeles Times notes Sachs drove back up to Washington in February after the shooting, but while he was visiting friends in San Diego, police took him in for questioning Thursday and arrested him.
Before the arrest, KTTV reports police were looking at the possibility that the Sachses were killed because of a bad business dealing. The couple reportedly had several complaints against them.
While at least one family friend told reporters he was shocked by the charges against Sachs, another told KCAL he wasn't surprised at all.
"My interactions with him were difficult. He was just a different kind of a person, kind of in his own world."
Police say they still don't have a motive for the shooting. If Sachs is convicted on all charges against him, he could face the death penalty.
San Rafael is responding to a spike in gang violence with renewed sweeps of known gang members. Friday evening, special teams fanned out across Marin County checking for probation violations. They searched 25 homes, made four arrests, and seized several weapons including a dagger that a suspect was concealing.
Later, in a traffic stop in the Canal district, officers detained three men, and confiscated two metal baseball bats and a knife, hidden below the trunk compartment.
"You getting a job," Sgt. Scott Eberle asked a Sureno gang member, as his apartment was searched.
"I can't now, I'm disabled," the 21-year-old man responded. He was shot in the chest, one of several recent shooting victims, but refuses to tell police anything about who did it. "I don't remember," he insisted Friday night.
And when asked how he feels about officers coming in unannounced to check-up on him? "Well I'm on probation," he conceded, "So they come here all the time."
Latino gang members and their associates may expect even more visits, as the spike in violence has drawn a firm response from San Rafael's police chief.
"It's the next level of bad: blatant, brazen, scary stuff," Chief Diana Bishop told KTVU.
She was referring especially to the March 1 shooting at Pa's Restaurant just two blocks from City Hall. A man walked into the crowded restaurant and shot another man point-blank several times, then ran away.
Both suspect and victim are believed to be gang members. The victim survived, but is paralyzed.
"When people are being shot, people are being stabbed, its life or death literally, that's our number one thing," declared Chief Bishop.
Crowds gathered to watch the officers, in vehicles and on foot. At some locations, the probationer wasn't home, in one case, he had left minutes before.
"Good luck for him, bad luck for us," observed Sgt. Eberle, "but we'll get him before the night is over."
The densely populated Canal neighborhood, full of paths and alleys, holds a multitude of hiding places.
"We have guys out here in undercover, guys on foot and in plain clothes and unmarked cars, to stay one step ahead of them," Eberle added. "We're trying to send the message, this is zero tolerance."
One apartment dweller, watching from behind her screen door, praised the effort, saying she feels afraid for her grandchildren, and afraid to go outside.
"Thank you to the police," she told KTVU. "I'm glad they're here."