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Though they said there is nothing to indicate Russia was directly involved in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, U.S. intelligence officials believe that the separatists in Ukraine responsible may have been trained by Russia. Last week, a commercial airliner carrying 298 people was downed by a missile near a conflict-plagued area of the Ukrainian and Russian border. According to intelligence evidence, the commercial flight was mistaken for a Ukrainian military plane, and was targeted by the pro-Russia militants.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN, “We do think President Putin and the Russian government bears responsibility for the support they’ve given the separatists… We’re going to continue to pull the thread on this case to determine exactly who do we believe fired that missile.” In response, the U.S. and EU have placed new sanctions on Russia, mostly aimed at restricting Russian officials and business leaders ... Discuss

A journalist for Vice Media has been taken hostage by a pro-Russian separatist group while reporting on the situation in Ukraine. Details of Simon Ostrovsky’s abduction are still not completely clear, but his last Tweets seem to indicate that a press conference with a local pro-Russian “mayor” had suddenly taken a concerning turn when reporters were not allowed to leave. In a statement, the State Department wrote, “The Department of State takes its obligation to assist U.S. citizens abroad seriously and stands ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. We have no further information at this time” ... Discuss

Evidently, there aren’t a lot of fires happening in Russia right now, because this group of firefighters had enough time to construct an elaborate hovercraft out of high-power hoses and what appears to be a mini-trampoline. Why? Because, why not? ... Discuss

Today, Russian President Vladimir Puntin signed documents that formally annexed the region of Crimea, officially making it a part of Russia—at least according to Russian officials. The United States and other Western nations have said that the move was a violation of international law. In a speech prior to the signing, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said, “Frankly speaking, I don't care about Russia signing this deal; I care about Ukraine, Ukrainians and our European future.” He also reiterated the position that, “We strongly condemn the unconstitutional referendum in Crimea. We will not recognize the annexation, nor will we recognize it in the future.” The Obama administration announced new economic sanctions against Russia, which appear to already be having a dramatic effect. The S&P lowered the countries credit rating in light of the sanctions, and according to this report, “ $60 billion left Russia in the first three months of this year” ... Discuss

In a special vote that saw a turnout of 83%, the Crimean public has chosen to officially become part of Russia. And it was not even close—more than 96% of voters took the side of joining Putin’s nation opposed to remaining an autonomous region. Since the ouster of Ukraine’s President Yanukovych weeks ago by pro-Western opposition demonstrators, Russian forces have been a significant presence in the region. White House and E.U. officials both said that the move was a violation of international law, and the Obama administration issued a statement saying that the voting process was "administered under threats of violence and intimidation from a Russian military intervention.” The United States will not recognize its outcome, and will likely introduce new economic sanctions against Russia ... Discuss

Despite threats of sanctions from the U.S., Russian officials have said they support a recently-passed measure that will allow the people of Crimea to vote on whether or not they will become part of Russia. Parliament leaders in the autonomous region—which has been considered part of Ukraine—agreed that the vote would be held on March 16. Ukrainian and Western officials said that the decision was made by an illegitimate legislator who took power by force. They also object to the massive Russian military occupation in the region. The Russians, however, say that they do not recognize the new, pro-Western government in Kiev, which took power following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych ... Discuss