BC-AP--AP Europe News Digest at 1200 GMT, AP
TOP STORIES IN EUROPE ON TUESDAY, MARCH 04, 2014
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled his forces back from the Ukrainian border on Tuesday yet said Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in that country. He accused the West of encouraging what he called an “anti-constitutional coup” in Ukraine and driving it onto anarchy and declared that any sanctions the West places on Russia will backfire. These were Putin’s first comments since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev last month and landed in Russia. By Vladimir Isachenkov and Tim Sullivan. SENT: 1000 words, developing, photos.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch diplomat leading an international mission to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program says the pace of removing chemicals from the civil war-torn country is picking up speed and an end-of-June deadline for total destruction of the program is still achievable. In an interview with The Associated Press at the headquarters of the international watchdog overseeing the unprecedented mission, Sigrid Kaag says Syria has agreed a 60-day timetable “to accelerate and intensify their efforts to ensure timely removal” of chemicals that will be destroyed outside the country. By Mike Corder. SENT: 500 words.
BRITAIN-PM’S AIDE ARRESTED
LONDON — A senior aide to Prime Minister David Cameron has been arrested and has resigned after images potentially related to child pornography were found on computers. Cameron’s Downing Street office says officials found out about the potential offense on Feb. 12 and notified the National Crime Agency. A spokesman says Patrick Rock was arrested at his home the next day. SENTL: 130 words.
MADRID — Officials say some 700 sub-Saharan African migrants have attempted to cross into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta from Morocco but were turned back by Moroccan forces. An Interior Ministry spokesman in Ceuta said the migrants attempted to force their way across twice early Tuesday. By Ciaran Giles.
BUSINESS AND FINANCE
MOSCOW — Russia’s state-controlled natural gas giant Gazprom says it will cancel a price discount for natural gas supplies to Ukraine, adding pressure on the economically-hobbled country. Gazprom chief Alexei Miller also said Tuesday in televised remarks that Ukraine has accumulated a $1.5-billion debt for past gas supplies. SENT: 130 words; UPCOMING: 300 by 1230 GMT.
LONDON — An easing in tensions in the Ukrainian crisis has helped buoy the mood in financial markets Tuesday, prompting a large unwind of the moves witnessed the previous day. Stock markets in Europe, including in Moscow and Asia, have clawed back a large chunk of Monday’s losses, while oil, gold, wheat and the Japanese yen have given back some of their gains. By Pan Pylas. SENT: 400 words, photos.
GENEVA — European automakers cast a wary eye toward Russia on the first day of the Geneva Auto Show on Tuesday, poised for a quick strategy rethink as the threat of sanctions hangs over the country because of its intervention in Ukraine. Russia has been a key market for recession-battered European automakers that have looked to expand sales and find partners for lucrative joint ventures. But new uncertainty has been raised by growing tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. By Colleen Barry and John Heilprin. SENT: 450 words, photos.
MADRID — Official figures show the number of Spanish people registered as unemployed fell in the month of February for the first time since the global financial crisis started. The Labor Ministry says Tuesday the jobless total fell by 1,949 in February to 4.81 million. Though modest, that’s the first drop for the month since 2007 and a further sign that the Spanish economy is recovering. SENT: 130 words, photos.