As Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union were gathering Thursday in Geneva to see if they can find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin was publicly acknowledging for the first time that his military played a part in Crimea's breakaway from the rest of Ukraine.
Putin, who in the past had insisted Russian forces did not enter Crimea before people in that region voted last month to join the Russian Federation, said Thursday on Russian national TV that "Crimean self-defense forces were of course backed by Russian servicemen," Russia's RT.com reports.
RT.com writes that Putin "acknowledged that Russian troops were present in Crimea before the referendum and argued that was necessary to let Crimeans make the choice on the future of the region."
Also Thursday, "Putin accused Ukraine's leaders ... of committing a 'grave crime' by using the army to quell unrest in the east of the country, and did not rule out sending in Russian troops," Reuters reports. But, the wire service adds:
"Putin tempered withering criticism of the Ukrainian leadership with more conciliatory comments about the possibility of a compromise to resolve the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.
"While recalling that parliament had granted him the right to use military force in Ukraine, the Kremlin chief said: 'I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today's pressing issues via political and diplomatic means.' "
Meanwhile, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that as Kerry and other diplomats gathered in Geneva, there was little sense that the talks would do much to ease tensions in Ukraine. She tells our Newscast Desk that:
"Kerry and his European counterparts at the Geneva meeting are telling Russia to stop stoking separatist actions in eastern Ukraine and are demanding the Kremlin pull Russian troops back from the border with Ukraine.
"Russia, on the other hand, wants the U.S. to stop its 'reckless' backing of the new government in Kiev and is demanding a new Ukrainian constitution that lessens the Ukrainian government's control of the country."
The New York Times says that Kerry was asked Thursday if he expects any progress at the talks. It writes that:
"Mr. Kerry shrugged, lifting his hands. The gesture appeared to capture the wary mood about the chances that an accommodation between Ukraine and Russia could be achieved at the four-way meeting."
As for the situation in eastern Ukraine, The Associated Press writes that:
"Ukraine's military launched its first actions against the pro-Russian forces on Tuesday. A day later, in the eastern Ukraine city of Slovyansk, pro-Russian insurgents took over six Ukrainian armored vehicles along with their crews and hoisted Russian flags over them before driving into town. The Ukrainian soldiers manning the vehicles offered no armed resistance, and masked pro-Russian militias in combat fatigues rode on top of the vehicles in a defiant rejection of Kiev's hope to re-establish control over the restive region.
"Insurgents in Slovyansk have seized the police headquarters and the administration building, demanding broader autonomy for eastern Ukraine and closer ties with Russia. Their actions have been repeated in at least eight other cities in eastern Ukraine. The central government says Moscow is provoking the unrest.
"On Thursday, Ukraine's interior minister said three pro-Russian militants died and 13 were wounded when Ukrainian troops repelled an attack on a National Guard base in the Black Sea port of Mariupol."
For much more about the crisis in Ukraine and how it has unfolded, see our earlier posts.
There were 304,000 first-time claims filed for unemployment insurance last week, up just 2,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 302,000, the Employment and Training Administration said Thursday.
The scant increase means claims continued to run near their lowest pace since May 2007 — seven months before the economy slipped into its last recession. That downturn officially ended in June 2009, but job growth has remained relatively sluggish for much of the time since then.
According to Reuters, claims "rose less than expected ... offering further evidence of the economy's underlying strength."
Good morning, here are our early stories:
And here are more early headlines:
Ukrainian Clashes Reported As Russia Meets Ukrainian Officials. (BBC)
Sub Finishes First Full Dive To Look For Missing Jet. (Bloomberg)
What Spring? Wintry Weather Hits Upper Great Lakes. (AccuWeather)
Appeals Court To Hear Oklahoma Same Sex Marriage Case. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Most Votes Expected Today In India's Staggered Election. (Deutsche Welle)
Canadian Teen Charged In Heartbleed Bug Data Theft. (Toronto Star)
Venezuelan Government, Opposition Broaden Truth Commission. (Guardian)
Blast Kills 1, Wounds 3 At Tennessee Ammunition Plant. (AP)
New Jersey Dog Gets Jury Duty Summons. (CBS)
Merchandise got its start on the Tampa punk and hardcore scene, then got weirder as artier influences like krautrock took hold. As its sound became harder to pin down, the band inspired an 18-month bidding war between record labels: This year, Merchandise finally signed with 4AD, and adventurous new material has begun to trickle out.
A new album arrives later this year, but Merchandise was already previewing it at SXSW last month. As part of their appearance at the festival, singer Carson Cox and guitarist Dave Vassalotti — a configuration Cox describes as "some component of Merchandise" — held court for an informal session at Friends & Neighbors, a backyard venue in east Austin.
Though it usually keeps its songs to reasonable lengths, Merchandise also knows how to sprawl out: Its new single, "Begging for Your Life/In the City Light," spans a whopping 14 minutes. So it's no surprise that even a truncated version of the group would be capable of wringing an epic out of such a casual environment. Here, Cox and Vassalotti perform "Become What You Are" before an intimate and easy-going crowd, letting the song unfurl for nearly nine minutes.
"Become What You Are"
Producers: Mito Habe-Evans, Saidah Blount; Director: A.J. Wilhelm; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Saidah Blount, Becky Harlan, Olivia Merrion, A.J. Wilhelm; Production Coordinator: Kate Kittredge; Special Thanks: Friends & Neighbors; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann
Jason Bentley, KCRW Music Director
For their self-titled sophomore effort, the L.A. band Warpaint spent a few weeks writing and recording in a decked out house with a geodesic dome in the high desert of Joshua Tree. With driving bass lines, beautifully harmonized vocals and confident but yearning lyrics, the quartet has crafted songs that demand your full attention. Before heading back to the desert for their appearance at Coachella, they stopped by the Morning Becomes Eclectic studios with new songs including "Love Is To Die."