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BC-AP--Europe News Digest, AP

January 1, 2014

TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 0800 GMT

RUSSIA-EXPLOSION

VOLGOGRAD, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday made a pre-dawn visit to the city reeling from two suicide bombings this week, bringing gestures of sympathy for the victims and questions for the officials he has ordered to beef up security. The bombings at the main railway station of Volgograd and on a city trolleybus killed 34 people and wounded scores, 65 of whom are hospitalized. By Gary Peach. SENT: 380 words.

FRANCE-PRIEST FREED

PARIS — A French priest kidnapped by Islamic radicals in Cameroon and held for seven weeks has arrived back in France. A smiling Father Georges Vandenbeusch descended from the plane at a military airport near Paris on Wednesday and shook hands with President Francois Hollande, who was waiting on the tarmac. SENT: 130 words, photos.

GREECE-SOCIAL ILLS

ATHENS — Greece assumes the presidency of the European Union Wednesday, starting 2014 with a promise by the government to pull the country out of a six-year recession, keep a balanced budget, and effectively end the financial crisis that rattled the euro. But problems remain. With most of the 240 billion euros ($330 billion) in bailout loans already paid out, Greece still has an unsustainably high national debt, faces the threat of renewed political instability, and has more than one-in-four workers jobless and steadily sliding into poverty.

A look at some of Greece’s most pressing problems. By Derek Gatopoulos. UPCOMING: 1,000 words by 1100 GMT.

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