TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1230 GMT

UKRAINE

SEVASTOPOL, Crimea — Senior Ukrainian officials planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities, a day after two men were killed at a military facility in a gunbattle between Ukrainian troops and a militia loyal to the local government. The prime minister in Crimea, which was nominally incorporated into Russia on Tuesday, said Ukraine's deputy prime minister and defense minister would be turned back, however. By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 530 words, photos.

CRIMEA-STAY OR GO?

SIMFERPOL, Crimea — Vait Sitdzhemiliev brought his wife and three daughters to Crimea to honor a deathbed wish from his father six years ago. Now, in a land officially annexed by Russia, the Crimean Tatar is worried about what is to come. "We Crimean Tatars have never gotten anything good from the Kremlin," said Sitdzhemiliev, a 49-year-old entrepreneur.

Nonetheless, he has decided to stay. Crimea is his ancestral homeland: His parents were among the tens of thousands of Crimean Tatars deported en masse by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and he brought his family here from Uzbekistan six years ago on his dying father's request. By John-Thor Dahlburg. SENT: 990 words, photos.

WEALTH GAP-TALE OF TWO BRITAINS

LONDON — There's London. And then there's the rest of the U.K. A tale of two Britains has increasingly emerged since the Great Recession. While the government trumpets the country's recovery from the financial crisis and its status as the world's fastest-growing developed economy, the rhetoric hides an increasing divide: One that pits London's boom against the malaise in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham that are struggling to remain vibrant in the 21st century. By Danica Kirka. SENT: 1,650 words, photos.

TURKEY-SHOOTING

ANKARA, Turkey — A gunman on Wednesday stormed a branch of Turkey's statistics agency, took colleagues hostage before opening fire and killing six of them. He then turned the gun on himself and died, officials and reports said. Eyup Tepe, the governor for Kars where the attack took place, said the shooting was not political or terrorism-related. He said the gunman, identified as 33-year old Veysi Erim, was employed as a sociologist at the agency and was receiving treatment for psychological problems. SENT: 180 words.

BRITAIN-MISSING GIRL

LONDON — Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann say they are seeking an intruder who sexually assaulted five girls in the region of southern Portugal where the British toddler was last seen. Police have linked 12 crimes between 2004 and 2010, in which a man entered holiday villas occupied by British families in Portugal's Algarve region. In several of those cases, the man sexually assaulted young girls. SENT: 130 words.

BRITAIN-MALAYSIA

LONDON — Britain's appeals court has rejected a bid by Malaysian families for an investigation into the deaths of 24 rubber plantation workers shot by British troops 66 years ago. Relatives have fought for years to force the British government to hold an inquiry into the deaths at Batang Kali on Dec. 12, 1948. SENT: 130 words.

TURKEY-CORRUPTION

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's main opposition party has recalled parliament for an extraordinary session to discuss allegations of corruption against four former ministers that have damaged Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government ahead of local elections on March 30. Opposition parties will try on Wednesday to force parliament to read a prosecutors' case against the four — which would put evidence against the government into the public domain, exposing Erdogan to further embarrassment before the elections. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: Session opens 1300 GMT.

KYRGYZSTAN-GOVERNMENT COLLAPSE

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — The governing coalition in the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan has collapsed after a party withdrew its support over unhappiness at the redevelopment of economically struggling cities in the south. Ata-Meken announced Wednesday it would leaving the three-party alliance despite what it said was the positive work being done by Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev. SENT: 140 words.

FRANCE-CORRUPTION

PARIS — International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde is being questioned by Paris magistrates investigating a corruption case that also involves the chief executive of French telecoms group Orange. Lagarde and Orange CEO Stephane Richard arrived Wednesday at the central Paris courthouse. Lagarde faces questioning over her role, while France's finance minister, in a 400 million-euro ($531 million) payment to a controversial businessman. Richard was then her chief of staff. SENT: 130 words.

GERMANY-BMW

FRANKFURT, Germany — Germany's luxury carmaker BMW predicted Wednesday that underlying earnings this year will easily outstrip last year's. In a speech at the carmaker's home base in Munich, CEO Norbert Reithofer said that the company would sell more than 2 million vehicles, up from last year's 1.96 million. SENT: 160 words.

FRANCE-ARGENTINA

PARIS — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is meeting with her French counterpart in Paris and is expected to discuss ways to tackle her country's growing international debt. Argentina currently owes $9.5 billion to the Paris Club, a group of the world's wealthiest countries that has in recent decades helped other nations with debt problems. SENT: 140 words, photos.

GREECE-FINANCIAL CRISIS

ATHENS, Greece — Greek civil servants, including hospital and teaching staff, have started a two-day strike against austerity measures imposed under the debt-mired country's international bailout commitments. Unions are also planning a protest march later Wednesday through central Athens. SENT: 140 words, photos.

FRANCE-KERVIEL

PARIS — The ex-trader who nearly sank one of France's largest banks will find out Wednesday whether he'll have to serve a three-year prison sentence and pay back a staggering 4.9 billion euros ($7 billion) when a court rules on his appeal. Jerome Kerviel, who is in Italy on a pilgrimage following a meeting with the pope, was convicted in 2010 for committing one of the biggest trading frauds in history. An appeals court upheld the decision in 2012. Kerviel then sought to overturn in France's highest court. SENT: 140 words.