DONETSK, Ukraine — Air strikes and artillery fire between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops in the eastern city of Donetsk have brought the violence closer than ever to the city center, as Kiev's forces move in on the rebel stronghold. With Ukrainian troops encircling Donetsk, Western leaders have accused Russia of building up forces along the border in what some fear may preface an intervention. On Wednesday, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he believed that the "the threat of a direct intervention (by Russia) is definitely greater than it was a few days ago, or two weeks ago." SENT: 600 words, photos. By Yuras Karmanau.

AP Photos XSG102-0805141924, XDL104-0805140150.


LONDON — Fears that the crisis in Ukraine is escalating into a new and dangerous phase roiled financial markets Wednesday. Following allegations of a buildup of Russian troops on the border of Ukraine and the prospect of tit-for-tat sanctions between the West and Moscow, investors have become increasingly vexed by the situation in Ukraine. SENT: 420 words, photos. By Pan Pylas.


ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the unquestionable front-runner in Turkey's first direct presidential election on Sunday. And critics accuse him of using his position as premier to make the contest even more lopsided. Erdogan, a skilled public orator who has dominated Turkish politics for a decade, enjoys far more popularity than his rivals: a newcomer on the political scene supported by several opposition parties and an ambitious young Kurdish politician. Most predict an Erdogan victory; the key question is whether he will win an outright majority on Aug. 10 or have to go to a runoff on Aug. 24. SENT: 780 words, photos. By Elena Becatoros.


BERLIN — Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone's departure from a Munich court with a fleeting "bye-bye" after having bribery charges dropped in exchange for an enormous $100 million payment left a sour taste for many in Germany. However, while the size of the super-wealthy Ecclestone's payment appears to be unprecedented, the legal device that made it possible is commonly used — and the motor-racing boss is far from the first prominent beneficiary. Here's a look at how the deal was possible. UPCOMING: 700 words by 1400 GMT. By Geir Moulson.


LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is coming under increased pressure over his government's policies on Gaza, after a cross-party parliamentary committee urged him to press Israel to lift restrictions on trade and travel in the territory. The Commons International Development Committee says travel and trade curbs on Gaza's people are not "proportionate" and that some are contrary to Israel's obligations under international law. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words by 1300 GMT.


DARMSTADT, Germany — The European Space Agency says comet-chasing space probe Rosetta has reached its destination after a journey lasting more than a decade. Scientists and spectators at ESA's mission control in Darmstadt, Germany, cheered Wednesday after the spacecraft successfully completed its final thrust to swing alongside comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 500 words by 1300 GMT. By Frank Jordans.


DONJI HRGOVI, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Heavy rainfall is causing rivers to burst their banks, flooding houses and roads in the same areas of Bosnia that were devastated in May by the worst floods in 120 years. Authorities declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as rescuers rushed to the central and northern parts of the country to evacuate people, many for the second time this year. Rain started Tuesday and forecast says it will continue to fall until Thursday. SENT: 130 words.


MADRID — Spain's Defense Ministry says a medically i.equipped Airbus 310 is ready to fly to Liberia to repatriate a Spanish missionary priest who has tested positive for the Ebola virus. The ministry said Wednesday preparations for the flight are being finalized but it is not yet known at what time the plane would take off.


BERLIN — German factory orders were down in June compared to the previous month due to a decrease of large orders. The Federal Statistics Office said Wednesday that industrial orders were 3.2 percent lower than in May, when they also fell by 1.6 percent.