News Wrap: Yanukovich defies opponents with plan for Russian economic union

In our news wrap Thursday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich announced plans for his country to partially join a Russian-led economic union despite weeks of protests against the prospect. Also, Egyptian security forces intensified a crackdown on key figures in the Arab Spring.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: A security breach at the height of the holiday season has exposed millions of Target shoppers to data theft. The retail chain said today that some 40 million credit and debit card accounts may be affected. It urged cardholders to monitor their statements for suspicious charges. We will get the details and explore the risks right after the news summary.

The U.S. economy turned in some lackluster numbers today. Home sales fell in November for the third straight month. And first-time claims for unemployment benefits last week were the highest since March. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 11 points to close at 16179. The Nasdaq fell nearly 12 points to close at 4058.

From Moscow today, a surprise announcement. After a lengthy news conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he will pardon the man who was once his leading opponent. Oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been jailed on corruption charges for more than a decade. We will have a full report on the Putin news conference and reaction later in the program.

The president of Ukraine had his own session with reporters today and defied his opponents at home and abroad. Viktor Yanukovych announced plans for partially joining an economic union led by Russia, despite weeks of protests against the move.

 In a televised interview, he also criticized Western officials who've visited Kiev and supported the protests.

PRESIDENT VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, Ukraine (through interpreter): It is very important that no other countries interfere in our internal questions and that they do not consider that they are the masters here, anywhere, on this square or anywhere else. I am categorically against anybody coming and teaching us how to live here.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Yanukovych challenged those leading the protests to wait for elections if they want to change Ukraine's government.

Security forces in Egypt today intensified their crackdown on key figures in the Arab spring uprising. Mohamed Adel led a youth movement in the drive to oust then-President Hosni Mubarak. He was arrested this morning. Meanwhile, two of Mubarak's sons were acquitted on corruption charges. A former prime minister was cleared as well.

A jury in London has convicted two men in the sensational daylight murder of an off-duty British soldier. The two were self-declared soldiers of Allah inspired by al-Qaida.

We have a report from Lucy Manning of Independent Television News.

 LUCY MANNING: Lee Rigby, a British soldier who had gone to war for his country, the men who murdered him, who called themselves soldiers of Allah, who thought their war was on the streets of Woolwich, the shocking pictures from that day, a scene so ordinary, as a woman walks by with her shopping, yet so unbelievable, Michael Adebolajo, blood on his hands, hatred from his mouth.

MAN: The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers. And this British soldier is one. He's an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

 LUCY MANNING: Moments earlier, they had been waiting for a soldier to kill. That soldier on his final walk was Lee Rigby. In his Help for Heroes top, he walked down the road outside the barracks, and as they spotted him, they accelerated and hit him.

It wasn't enough for them just to knock Lee Rigby over. The actual details are too graphic, but in the middle of the day, they repeatedly stabbed and slashed Lee Rigby's neck, and that still wasn't enough. They then dragged his body into the road.

They wanted martyrdom to go to paradise. Instead, they will go to jail. Lee Rigby's family dignified, yet clearly still traumatized, shed more tears in court as they heard the words guilty.

PETE SPARKS, detective inspector: "This has been the toughest time of our lives. No one should have to go through what we have been through as a family. We are satisfied that justice has been done. But, unfortunately, no amount of justice will bring Lee back."

LUCY MANNING: But there are questions about the murderers. Both had already been in prison and they were known to the police for a number of years, Michael Adebolajo taking center stage at an Islamist demonstration.

And he claimed to have been approached by MI5 as recently as this year, so were they missed? Parliament is now investigating.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Part of a London theater collapsed evening during a performance, injuring more than 80 people. Seven of the injured were seriously hurt. Several had to be rescued from beneath piles of plaster, wood and dust. There was no word on the cause.

In Iraq, Shiite pilgrims were again the target of suicide bombers today, and at least 36 were killed. The attacks came as thousands of people made their way to the Shiite city of Karbala for a major Muslim holiday. At least three bombers struck at different points along the route. Al-Qaida and Sunni Muslim insurgents often target Shiites on the pilgrimage.

U.N. investigators say that the Syrian military and its allies are systematically seizing people who are never heard from again. A report today said that thousands have been taken away. Separately, Amnesty International reported that rebels linked to al-Qaida have tortured and killed people at secret prisons in Northern Syria.

President Obama commuted the sentences of eight convicted drug offenders today. In a written statement, he said their prison terms were unduly long under a law that treated crack cocaine more harshly than powder cocaine. A more recent law has reduced the disparity. Before today, the president commuted just one sentence in his five years in office.

New Mexico is now the 17th state to legalize gay marriage. The state Supreme Court ruled today that it is unconstitutional to bar same-sex unions. New Mexico law never directly addressed the issue, but until recently, county clerks historically denied marriage licenses to gays and lesbians.