Updated 

In brief | Nation & World | 3-26-14


Obama: Nuke security deal makes the world a safer place, observers want more to sign up

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that a security summit took “concrete steps” to prevent nuclear material falling into the hands of terrorists even though Russia and China failed to sign an agreement to beef up inspections.

One of the key results emerging from the two-day summit in The Hague was that 35 countries pledged to turn international guidelines on nuclear security into national laws and open up their procedures for protecting nuclear installations to independent scrutiny. The summit also featured new reduction commitments, with Japan, Italy and Belgium agreeing to cut their stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

“This was not about vague commitments, it was about taking tangible and concrete steps to secure more of the world’s nuclear material so it never falls into the hands of terrorists and that’s what we’ve done,” Obama said.

The U.S. president initiated a string of summits in 2010 aimed at preventing terrorists getting their hands on weapons-grade nuclear material. He hailed the progress made so far as a “fundamental shift in our approach to nuclear security.” Since 2010, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25.

Ukraine’s defense chief resigns as troops withdraw from Russian-controlled Crimea

FEODOSIA, Crimea — As former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces, Ukrainian marines in Crimea piled into buses Tuesday to head back to the mainland.

It was a low-key exit from this eastern Black Sea port, with fewer than a dozen friends and relatives on hand to bid the marines farewell. A troop transporter bearing black Russian military plates trailed the bus as it pulled away.

Their departure came as Ukraine’s defense minister stepped down after harsh criticism for authorities’ often-hesitant reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which was formalized following a hastily organized referendum this month. And while Ukraine struggled to deal with its humbling by Russia, it also faced the menace of Ukrainian nationalists angered by the police killing of a leading radical.

Troops were given the stark choice of either staying in Crimea and switching allegiance to serve under Russia’s military, or leaving the peninsula to keep their jobs with the Ukrainian defense forces.

“The Russians threatened, intimidated, bullied and tried to get us to switch sides to Russia. It has been very difficult to resist this enormous pressure but I have made a choice that I can live with,” Senior Lt. Anatoly Mozgovoy told The Associated Press after arriving in the Ukrainian city of Genichesk.

Russian rocket carrying 3-man crew blasts off for space station

BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan — A rocket carrying a Russian-American crew to the International Space Station has blasted off successfully from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz booster rocket lifted off as scheduled at 3:17 a.m local time Wednesday, lighting up the night skies over the steppe with a giant fiery tail. It entered a designated orbit about 10 minutes after the launch. All onboard systems were working flawlessly, and the crew was feeling fine.

So far, there have been no signs that the tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine could affect the space program.

The crew — NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and Russians Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev — are set to dock the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft at the station less than six hours after the launch and are scheduled to stay in orbit for six months.

Swanson is a veteran of two U.S. space shuttle missions, and Skvortsov spent six months on the space outpost in 2010. Artemyev is on his first flight to space.

By wire sources