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BC-AP--Europe News Digest, AP

December 2, 2014

TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1205 GMT

CRIMEA-PROPERTY GRAB

YALTA, Crimea — One day in October, a dozen armed men in masks drove up to the gates of Yalta Film Studios. They weren’t actors, and this was no make-believe. It was a hostile takeover, and the movie sets, littered with debris from a Crimean War reenactment and a faux Mexican village, were the target. It’s just one of thousands of businesses seized since Crimea was annexed by Russia eight months ago. Crimea’s new pro-Moscow leaders say the takeovers, which they call nationalizations, are indispensable to reverse more than two decades of wholesale plunder by Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs. By Laura Mills and John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 3,400 words, photos.

SERBIA-BACK TO 90S?

STARA PAZOVA, Serbia — As nationalist hysteria gripped the Balkans a quarter century ago, Aslan Ballaj, an ethnic Albanian from Kosovo, did something unthinkable: He moved to Serbia to open a bakery at a time when people like him were increasingly seen as the enemy. Since then, Ballaj has remained alongside his Serb neighbors even as their nations went to war in the late 1990s, managing against the odds to escape violence in the darkest days of the bloodshed. Just as he thought the times of fear and revenge were over, extremists in October attacked his bakery shop, riddling it with bullets and throwing a hand grenade that shattered windows and destroyed walls, tables and chairs. By Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic. SENT: 1,040 words, photos.

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian government troops and Russian-backed separatist forces in the Luhansk region have agreed on a new cease-fire, international monitors said. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that under the agreement, hostilities are to cease Friday along the line of contact between the warring sides. By Peter Leonard. SENT: 320 words.

RUSSIA-ECONOMY

MOSCOW — The Russian government has for the first time acknowledged that the country will fall into recession next year, battered by the combination of Western sanctions and a plunge in the price of its oil exports. The economic development ministry on Tuesday revised its GDP forecast for 2015 from growth of 1.2 percent to a drop of 0.8 percent. Disposable income is expected to decline by 2.8 percent against the previously expected 0.4 percent growth. By Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 290 words, photos.

VATICAN-SLAVERY

VATICAN CITY — Religious leaders from a half-dozen faiths have signed on to a new Vatican initiative to end modern-day slavery by 2020, declaring that human trafficking, forced labor and prostitution are crimes against humanity. Pope Francis and the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, were joined Tuesday by the Hindu guru Mata Amritanandamayi, known as Amma, as well as Buddhist, Jewish and Shiite and Sunni Muslim representatives for a signing ceremony of a joint declaration against modern slavery. By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 250 words.

ITALY-SHIPWRECK-CAPTAIN

GROSSETO, Italy — The captain of the Costa Concordia cruise ship is offering his first testimony about the 2012 shipwreck off an Italian island that killed 32 people. Francesco Schettino arrived some 45 minutes late Tuesday for his trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship. His lawyer described Schettino as “tense, concentrated.” SENT: 130 words.

GERMANY-LUFTHANSA STRIKE

BERLIN — Pilots at German airline Lufthansa have extended their two-day strike to long-haul flights in an ongoing dispute over retirement benefits. The airline, Germany’s biggest, says a total of 1,350 of its 2,800 flights scheduled through the strike’s end Tuesday at midnight have been cancelled, affecting 150,000 passengers. SENT: 140 words, photos.

With: PORTUGAL-AIRLINE STRIKE

POLAND-BOY SURVIVES FREEZE

WARSAW, Poland — Doctors in southern Poland are working to save a 2-year-old boy who was found unconscious after spending a frigid night outdoors, wearing only socks and a pajama top. Janusz Skalski, a doctor at the children’s hospital in Krakow, said Tuesday that the boy’s body temperature was 12 degrees Celsius (54 F) and his heart was beating once every few dozen seconds when he was brought in. SENT: 130 words.

INDIA-FRENCH JETS

NEW DELHI — India is close to an agreement to buy Rafale fighter planes from France, an Indian defense spokesman said Tuesday. The 12 billion euros ($15 billion) deal for 126 of the jets would be France’s first foreign sale of the combat-tested planes. France and French manufacturer Dassault Aviation have been trying for years to sell the jets abroad without success. The Rafale has been in service for the French Air Force since 2006. By Muneeza Naqvi. SENT: 350 words, photos.

EUROPE-RUSSIA-PIPELINE

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s energy minister says his country will weigh a Russian proposal to set up a new natural gas link to Turkey and the possible creation of gas hub on its border with Greece. Taner Yildiz spoke Tuesday a day after visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow is spiking a multibillion dollar gas pipeline project for southern Europe amid spiraling tensions with the West. Putin said Russia will instead focus on boosting energy ties with Turkey. By Suzan Fraser and Pablo Gorondi. SENT: 290 words, photos.

GERMANY-STUDENT-KILLED

BERLIN — A German prosecutor says preliminary autopsy results failed to clearly identify the cause of death of a young woman who died after reportedly defending two teenage girls from male harassment. The death of Tugce Albayrak has triggered an outpouring of public sympathy in Germany. SENT: 130 words, photos.

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