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Susan Smith-Harmon

Susan Smith-Harmon

Final Crimea count: 97 percent back Russia

Monday, 17 March 2014 03:48 Published in National News
   MOSCOW (AP) — Final results of the referendum in Crimea show that 97 percent of voters have supported leaving Ukraine to join Russia, the head of the referendum election commission said Monday.
   Mikhail Malyshev told a televised news conference that the final tally from Sunday's vote was 96.8 percent in favor of splitting from Ukraine. He also said that the commission has not registered a single complaint about the vote.
   The referendum was widely condemned by Western leaders who were planning to discuss economic sanctions to punish Russia on Monday. Ukraine's new government in Kiev called the referendum a "circus" directed at gunpoint by Moscow.
   But Valery Ryazantsev, head of Russia's observer mission in Crimea and a lawmaker from the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Monday that the results are beyond dispute. He told the Interfax news agency that there are "absolutely no reasons to consider the vote results illegitimate."
   Senior officials in Moscow were discussing Crimea's annexation as a fait accompli. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov said the region could receive tax breaks.
   The vote came less than three months after Ukraine's then-president, Viktor Yanukovych, shelved plans to upgrade economic ties with the European Union and instead accept a Russian offer of loans and reduced energy prices. That triggered demonstrations by pro-Western Ukrainians which turned violent, eventually forcing Yanukovych to flee.
   The Crimean peninsula has been controlled for two weeks now by troops under apparent Russian command.
   Russia raised the stakes Saturday when its forces, backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles, took control of the Ukrainian village of Strilkove and a key natural gas distribution plant nearby — the first Russian military move into Ukraine beyond the Crimean peninsula of 2 million people.
   The Russian forces later withdrew from the village but kept control of the gas plant. On Sunday, Ukrainian soldiers were digging trenches and erecting barricades between the village and the gas plant.
   The Crimean parliament planned to meet Monday to formally ask Moscow to be annexed, and Crimean lawmakers were to fly to Moscow later in the day for talks, Crimea's prime minister said on Twitter.
   CHESTER, Ill. (AP) - A pre-trial hearing has been delayed for a man accused of setting a Randolph County, Illinois house fire that killed four children last year.
   The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale reports Sunday that Monday's hearing for Derrick Twardoski has been rescheduled for April 17th. Twardoski has pleaded not guilty to four first-degree murder counts in the deaths last May in Percy, a village 60 miles southeast of St. Louis.
   Eight exhibits are still being tested for DNA evidence in the case. Randolph County prosecutors say the testing will be done Monday and results should be available in 30 days.
   The fire killed siblings ages 12, 9 and 5-year-old twins. Their parents and a 6 year old escaped.
 

Lack of action leads to loss of Mo. tobacco money

Monday, 17 March 2014 03:39 Published in Local News
   JEFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri had expected to receive about $130 million this April under an annual settlement payment from tobacco companies.
   But it looks like Missouri will get less than half that amount because of an arbitrator's ruling that state officials failed to diligently enforce the settlement a decade ago.
   House and Senate committees heard testimony this past week on legislation that the attorney general's office and major tobacco companies both say is necessary if the state wants to negotiate a smaller loss of tobacco funds. The bill would, in essence, force a price hike on some cheaper cigarettes that compete with the brands made by big tobacco companies.
   House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream says the bill faces opposition and definitely won't pass in time to reverse this year's reduced tobacco payment.
 

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