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Tensions Growing in Ukraine Over Russian Troops; Extreme Weather Continues Across U.S.; Hikers Rescued from California State Park

Aired March 2, 2014 - 06:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will never forget, we'll never know their pain and we only wish we could have stopped this to reduce the number of victims.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CO-HOST: Russia's parliament has approved military force in Ukraine, and now Ukraine is amassing its troops in response. Protests are erupting outside the U.N. Is Russia looking for a war?

CHRISTI PAUL, CO-HOST: A powerful storm moving east today, dumping heavy snow and rain. Millions of you are going to be affected.

BLACKWELL: And it's Oscar night. Ellen DeGeneres hosting this year, in a steep departure from Seth MacFarlane, but she's still sure to deliver a headline.

Your NEW DAY starts now.

PAUL: So glad to have you with us here on this Sunday morning. A lot going on already, and it's only 6 a.m. Getting ready for the day.

BLACKWELL: Yes, it's been going on all night.

PAUL: Yes, Christi Paul here with you.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Again, 6 a.m. here in the East, 3 out west. And welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY SUNDAY.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: And we start this hour with the breaking news that the Ukrainian government has deployed troops across the country even as the nation's defense minister says Ukraine does not have the military might to resist Russia.

PAUL: This morning, Russian troops arrived in Crimea, and the crisis is becoming more clear here. The U.S. firmly saying it condemns Russia's invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory.

BLACKWELL: Of course, this comes as violence erupted during a massive protest in Eastern Ukraine. Thousands of pro-Russian protesters rallied, and you can see here, look at this. The crowds attacking a pro-E.U., a pro-European Union group. Dozens of people were reportedly injured there.

PAUL: Now, Ukrainian officials say 15,000 Russian troops are now in the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine where Russia has a base in Sevastopol.

BLACKWELL: And meanwhile, evidence grows that the armed men in unmarked uniforms patrolling Crimea since Friday are, indeed, Russian troops, although Russia is not admitting that.

PAUL: International tension, though, escalated yesterday as Russian parliament approved the use of military force in Ukraine, defying President Obama's recent warning.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke over the phone for 90 minutes yesterday, and Russia defended its actions, claiming it's only protecting Russian citizens from a threat.

PAUL: The head of the United Nations also called Putin, we should point out, and told him it was critical to restore calm.


BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to an immediate de-escalation of the situation. Cool heads must prevail, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) must be the only tool in ending this crisis.


BLACKWELL: And, of course, CNN has correspondents spread out across the region this morning, covering this crisis as only CNN can. Phil Black is in Moscow; Ian Lee is in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine; and Diana Magnay is in Simferopol, Crimea, and the region there in Ukraine.

PAUL: So let's start with Phil Black here. Phil, thanks for being with us. We're hearing that Russia has blocked three Ukrainian bases and demanded Ukrainian forces surrender. Is that what you're hearing?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christi, this comes from the Ukrainian defense ministry, which says that Russian forces have surrounded three Ukrainian bases there on the Crimean Peninsula there, demanding that those forces, those Ukrainian forces, surrender and give up their weapons.

So far those Ukrainian forces are refusing to surrender, and so there is now currently an ongoing standoff. It is another sign -- just another sign that Russia is seeking to consolidate, to maintain its control of this region of Ukraine, Christi.

BLACKWELL: So, Phil, we know both the U.N. secretary -- Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and President Obama spoke with Mr. Putin yesterday. Is there any indication that Russia will, indeed, pull back?

BLACK: Well, what is notable about the language that President Putin, the Kremlin has been using is its breath. So when President Putin spoke to President Obama and spoke of Russia's right to defend its interests, its citizens, the Russian speaking peoples, he didn't just refer to the Crimea, but he talked about Eastern Ukraine, as well. When he went to parliament, seeking permission to use military force, he spoke about military force on the territory of Ukraine. That's pretty broad. So it basically means Russia is, at the very least, keeping its options open, considering the possibility of expanding this military incursion beyond the Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, as well.

PAUL: All right. CNN's Phil black in Moscow for us. That's what we were talking about yesterday. How far do they really want to push these borders and take it. Thank you, Phil.

BLACKWELL: Let's head to Ukraine now where Ukrainian military is calling up all its available reserves as it deploys troops across the country and demonstrations, as we showed you already, are turning violent.

PAUL: Yes. Ian Lee is in the capital of Kiev. Ian, we've seen so many demonstrators literally marking their territory -- look at this -- raising the Russian flag. What can you tell us about what's going on there?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Christi, you do have this somewhat of an East/West split here. In the east, you have a lot of people who feel a close kinship with Russia, and you are getting these protests, these pro-Russian demonstrators out in the streets.

But it's very hard to gauge how much now under these new circumstances where you do have Russian forces in the Crimea, on Ukrainian territory, where that split does lie in the east. How many people are feeling this nationalist pride towards Ukraine and how many are saying, well, we're going to support Russia throughout all of this.

And really, one of the telling things, you do have this violence between the two sides in the east, but you don't see really massive demonstrations. We're not seeing tens of thousands of people in the streets waving Russian flags. You look at the second largest city of Ukraine, Karpov (ph), where we saw some of the violence yesterday. Over -- roughly 100 people injured in that. And, yes, you do have very -- very violent and very vocal people on the street, but we're not seeing really massive demonstrations, and this is a city that's over a million people.

BLACKWELL: So, Ukraine is deploying troops across the country. But earlier this morning the defense minister said that their forces could not take on Russia. One, why make that declaration? I'd imagine strategically that would be defeatist, but why the disconnect, as well? LEE: Well, you're right. It is a bit defeatist, but it also is realistic. The Ukrainian military just does not have the fire power, not nearly the fire power. Russia has hundreds of thousands of troops. Ukraine has just a bit over 100,000 troops. So Russia has updated aircraft and tanks, and Ukraine doesn't have that type of weaponry, updated weaponry that Russia has.

But I think it's one thing that we are hearing -- and this is significant -- is that in the Crimea a minority population, the Tatar there -- have said that, if Russian forces were to go in and invade the Crimea, fully take over control with military force, that they would pick up weapons and start an insurgency. And that is the one thing, that would be difficult for the Russians to handle, is that there are a lot of nationalists, very patriotic Ukrainians who've said that they would defend this country. And as we saw, the Tatars saying they'll start an insurgency in the Crimea if the Russians move forward -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right. Ian Lee there for us in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Thank you, Ian.

PAUL: So from Kiev we want to head to Simferopol, the capital of the pro-Russian stronghold in Crimea, and the region's new prime minister is making his first public comments this morning.

BLACKWELL: Diana Magnay is there. Diana, what did he say?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): I say he's delayed his press conference, and this is because of issues between Russian troops, ad they're basically being called here and Ukrainian military at the base at Sevastopol, apparently. But we haven't been able to get more detail.

The speaker of the Crimea parliament is talking now, asserting at the beginning of his press conference that the situation here was under control. Well, it doesn't necessarily feel quite like that, Victor.

There are three Ukrainian military bases that are now surrounded by these troops. They are unidentified, but they are military troops. One of them told me yesterday they were Russian. I think it's safe to assume that these are Russian troops.

And at the town of Televayanoya (ph), which is about 25 kilometers southwest from Simferopol where I am, there are large numbers of troops surrounding a Ukrainian military base there. Our driver says around 20 armored personnel carriers. The locals are standing around, extremely worried about the situation.

And we just drove to a military base in Simferopol itself, and around it there were these troops sort of hanging around. So their presence is very, very strongly felt at the moment. They are everywhere. Yesterday, they were guarding all government facilities. They seem to have surrounded all military bases. All this at a time when the Russian president says he is still deliberating whether or not to send Russian troops into Crimea. PAUL: Diana, let me ask you. I know that, you know, we have seen men with red armbands, and -- and Russia is refusing to admit that some of these, these troops -- still, they're refusing to admit that they're Russian.

Why, at this point, when we know that they -- he ordered troops to go in there, would they still not admit that some of those men are Russian? And why is this territory -- help us understand why this territory, Crimea is so important to Ukraine and Russia?

MAGNAY: Well, let's start with that first. It is mostly ethnic Russians who live here. They feel completely disenfranchised by the process in Kiev. They don't feel that the new government in Kiev includes them, represents their interests, would protect the fact that their only language is Russian. These are very, very real concerns for them.

And also what they're very scared about is this idea that the Ukrainian nationalists and the far right, who were very active on the May ban (ph), may come here and try to push Crimea in a direction which would disenfranchise these ethnic Russians. That is why they're so scared. That is why the Russian president has said that he will do what it takes to protect the lives and interests of Russian-speaking -- Russian speakers in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

And also, let's not forget that Russia has this very, very important naval base at Sevastopol, which is the home of its Black Sea fleet. So this is strategically militarily important to Russia, and also, you have this large ethnic Russian population here who are very scared about the events in Kiev.

Why he -- the president won't admit who these troops are, it's difficult to second guess President Putin. But what I will say is that, from what I've seen on the ground, they are the ones, the military troops dressed in camouflage gear, they are the ones who seem to be keeping the peace.

The guys with the red armbands we saw yesterday, a gunfight between black balaclava, black-clad militias basically wearing white armbands shooting at we don't know who. These are the ones who, in my opinion, what I'm seeing on the ground, seem to be the ones you should be careful of. You know, that's where the danger lies. That you might get small units taking matters into their own hands. And it seems the military troops who are appearing in great numbers around the various cities are trying to keep the situation under control.

PAUL: OK. Diana Magnay, thank you so much for the explanation and letting us know what's happening there at this moment.

So while we monitor, obviously, the crisis in Ukrainian, we do want to give you a heads up on some extreme weather that's moving across the U.S.

BLACKWELL: Of course, because this is severe, as well. And one out of three Americans could soon get slammed. We're talking heavy snow, ice, tornadoes, even. We'll have details next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLACKWELL: It's a mess. At least 1,000 people out of their homes because of this in California. You know, first, they didn't get any rain at all, and now this is what's being seen all over the Los Angeles area this weekend. Just mud, floods there. It's terrible.

PAUL: Well, and that's just California. I mean, it doesn't matter where you live at this point today. You are not going to want to leave your house without checking the weather or getting prepared in some aspect. Because like it or not, another doze of extreme weather expected to slam more than 100 million of you from coast to coast.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Expect more bitter cold, heavy snow, even threats of ice storms and tornadoes. Meteorologist Karen Maginnis has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not really looking forward to the storm -- the snow storm coming up.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): It's all too familiar for road crews this year: an incoming winter storm. Snow plows across the country are on standby, waiting for this latest round of winter weather to hit.

And people aren't taking any chances with this storm. Popular items like milk and bread are in short supply at this St. Louis grocery store.

Snow already on the ground leading to a couple of frightening scenes. This is an avalanche in Montana. The snow knocked a home completely off its foundation. Rescue crews and neighbors used chain saws, shovels and even their bare hands to try to free the people trapped inside. Three people, including an 8-year-old boy, were found and rushed to the hospital.

And in Colorado, chaos on the interstate. More than 100 vehicles caught up in a series of crashes on a stretch of Denver highway, all because of the slick conditions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything was fine, and we weren't going that fast, and then all of a sudden everything just sort of went out of control.

MAGINNIS: The road was closed for hours while crews cleaned up the mess.

But some were able to have fun in the snow. Check out this NHL game played outdoors in Chicago. The Blackhawks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field where the Bears normally play. More than 60,000 fans braved the 17-degree weather, blistering weather and snow to watch the home team win, 5-1. It's not snow but rain causing havoc in California. Check out what the choppy surf did to the boats in the Pacific Ocean near L.A. High winds and heavy rain led to the powerful waves. One of those waves powerful enough to crash into this restaurant. Sea water soaked the inside of the building, windows were smashed and a patio was flooded.


PAUL: Goodness, those pictures.

BLACKWELL: Wow. You know, we're going to talk about what happened in California in just a moment, but winter has been rough enough.

PAUL: It has been horrible.

BLACKWELL: We're now in March.

MAGINNIS: We thought that maybe we had the last gasp of winter, but, no, it looks like across the Tennessee/Ohio Valley we've got icing, we've got snow.

Beginning across the panhandle of Texas, extending into Missouri right around Cape Girardo, into Memphis and Nashville, extending into Cincinnati. Cleveland, I think you'll see a little bit of snowfall.

But then going into the start of the workweek, it is going to be New York City and Washington, D.C.

Did we mention Boston? Boston, you've had your fair share. You'll pick up a couple of more inches. But it's primarily going to be a little bit further South. So the mid-Atlantic is going to be hammered hard with ice and snow.

When we said this affects about 100 million people, we're not exaggerating. It looks like one-third of the United States will be impacted by the ice and snow.

If you are traveling on those interstates, be careful. We saw devastating car crashes in Toronto last week; also right around Denver.

So, we'll keep you updated on this and bring you updates throughout the morning. Back to you guys.

PAUL: All right. Karen, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, the weather is leading to a rescue in Malibu.

PAUL: Yes. How four hikers are doing this morning. But I'll tell you, it was a frightening several hours.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLACKWELL: In California's Malibu Creek State Park, a rescue chopper has just rescued four hikers. Now, they were trapped there because of all the rain, the wet weather we're seeing in California. The creeks around them were swollen.

PAUL: Yes. Mike Parker, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, is joining us by phone.

Mike, thank you so much for being with us. As I understand it, this was kind of a dicey rescue. What happened?

MIKE PARKER, SPOKESMAN, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT (via phone): Well, yes, it was -- it was a very, very risky rescue. It was quite a remote area. There's absolutely no lighting there at all. The only lighting that we had was -- was our rescuers with flashlights on their helmets and the ones that they were holding.

The four people that were stranded were down to the last bit of battery power they had on their cell phones. It's amazing their cell phone was even working. And they were texting, trying to relay their location. But in the pitch black, it's pretty difficult to find them. And the creek was swollen and rising, and we were very concerned that they would be drowned where they were.

BLACKWELL: And initially, there were difficulties getting a chopper in to just pluck them off of this rock that they were stranded on because of the weather. Tell us about that.

PARKER: Yes, since -- since 6:30 tonight, multiple agencies tried to fly helicopters in, ranging from L.A. County Fire, L.A. County Sheriff, even the Coast Guard, and it wasn't until just, just now, actually, in the last 20 minutes that the Ventura County Sheriff's helicopter was able to break through the weather system and has successfully hoisted all four of them out, and they are in an ambulance being seen right now. And that's all in the last 20 minutes.

BLACKWELL: All right. Perfect ending to this, and we'll see how they turn out after they're checked out by doctors. Mike Parker there with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department. Thank you.

PAUL: Thanks, Mike.

Still ahead on NEW DAY, a major crack found at the bottom of a dam is now cause for real concern in the Pacific Northwest. We're going to tell you what engineers are doing to thwart a potential disaster.

BLACKWELL: And the former NFL star Darren Sharper adding a job loss to his mounting legal troubles now. We've got the details on that when NEW DAY returns.


PAUL: Well, mortgage rates dipped this past week. Here's a look for you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PAUL: Always so glad to have your company. It is 29 minutes past the hour right now. I'm Christi Paul.

BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell. Here are five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Up first, another winter storm barreling toward the Midwest and Northeast. It's bringing more ice, more snow, and severe thunderstorms are possible today in parts of Texas and also Louisiana. Across the country, forecasters are telling more than 100 million people to be on alert for potentially dangerous weather.

PAUL: No. 2, a 65-foot-long crack along the base of a dam in Washington state is being called serious. Divers found this crack, which is two inches wide, at the Wanapum Dam on Thursday. Now, tomorrow engineers are due to follow or to lower, rather, the water level to further assess that damage. But officials say there's no immediate threat to the public.