In brief | Nation & world | 031414


Russian troops in war games near Ukraine as Putin faces tough Western warnings

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Russia conducted new military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, and President Vladimir Putin said the world shouldn’t blame his country for what he called Ukraine’s “internal crisis.”

In Crimea, where the public will vote on Sunday whether to break away from Ukraine and become part of Russia, jittery residents lined up at their banks to withdraw cash from their accounts amid uncertainty over the future of the peninsula, which Russian troops now control. Violence engulfed the eastern Donetsk region, where violent clashes between pro-Russia demonstrators and supporters of the Ukrainian government left at least one person dead.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov plan to meet in London Friday in a last-ditch bid to end the international standoff over the Crimean referendum, which Ukraine and the West have rejected as illegitimate.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized Russia, saying the territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be compromised.

South By Southwest shaken, but continues after car plows through crowd; 2 dead, 23 injured

AUSTIN, Texas — Fleeing police, a driver gunned a gray Honda Civic through a street barricade and into a crowd of South By Southwest festival attendees early Thursday, killing two people, injuring 23 others and casting a pall over one of the nation’s hippest celebrations of music, movies and technology.

The driver struck multiple pedestrians around 12:30 a.m. on a block filled with concertgoers, then sped down the street, hitting and killing a man from the Netherlands on a bicycle and an Austin woman on a mo-ped, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. The driver eventually crashed into a parked van and tried to flee on foot before police used a stun gun to subdue him.

Rashad Charjuan Owens, 21, will face two counts of capital murder and 23 counts of aggravated assault with a vehicle, Austin police said Thursday afternoon in a statement. Formal charges are still pending. The statement did not provide a city of residence.

Police said the incident started when an officer on a drunken-driving patrol tried to stop a vehicle. Acevedo indicated the suspect was drunk, but drunken driving was not among the charges police said Owens would face. Acevedo said investigators have obtained blood samples and were testing them.

Public records obtained by The Associated Press show that Owens had a previous conviction in Alaska for drunken driving and one in Texas for criminal trespassing.

Photos of Pistorius’ home show blood splatter, cocked pistol

PRETORIA, South Africa — Blood on the stairs, walls and furniture, a cocked 9 mm pistol, bloody towels, fallen wall tiles. Like pieces of an unfinished puzzle, the photos of the blood-splattered interior of Oscar Pistorius’ home gave a fragmented picture Thursday of his girlfriend’s violent end.

One of the first police officers to arrive at the scene testified at the athlete’s murder trial that he followed a “trail of blood” when he got there.

Recounting what he saw in macabre detail, former police colonel G.S. van Rensburg said he traced spots and bigger blood marks downstairs where Reeva Steenkamp lay dead from three gunshot wounds, then followed them across the floor, up the stairs, through a small lounge area and into Pistorius’ bedroom.

Ultimately, he reached the bathroom where the double-amputee Olympian shot his girlfriend in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.

There, van Rensburg said he found Pistorius’ gun, its hammer back and safety off, lying on a mat. Nearby were spent bullet casings, cellphones and a blood-soaked towel, as well as the cricket bat Pistorius says he used to smash open the toilet door to get to Steenkamp.

By wire sources