TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1200 GMT

RUSSIA-ECONOMY

MOSCOW — Russia's central bank has scrapped daily controls on the value of the ruble, allowing the battered currency to float freely in financial markets earlier than planned. The bank said that it will stop setting daily limits for the ruble's fluctuations and will not have any obligation to intervene in financial markets to support the currency, which has lost nearly half its value against the dollar this year. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 345 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words by 1700 GMT.

MONTENEGRO-ENVIRONMENT WOES

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro takes pride in its majestic Adriatic coastline and towering mountains rising from the sea, lined with rivers, streams and lakes. But the so-called Balkan Wild Beauty is now faced with the problem of waste disposal that is threatening both its natural wonders and its lucrative tourism industry. Tons of hazardous and other waste is blemishing the spectacular scenery of Montenegro, lying unprotected close to towns and villages, rivers and lakes, or newly-built luxurious sea resorts. By Predrag Milic. SENT: 464 words, photos.

SPAIN-CATALONIA INDEPENDENCE

BARCELONA, Spain — About 1.6 million people in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia have voted in favor of breaking away from the country and carving out a new Mediterranean nation in a mock independence poll, but more Catalans stayed away either because of the poll's questionable legality or their opposition to secession. By Joseph Wilson. SENT: 471 words, photos.

NETHERLANDS-UKRAINE-PLANE

AMSTERDAM — Hundreds of grieving family members and friends of victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster are gathering in Amsterdam for a national commemoration ceremony nearly four months after the passenger jet was downed over eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people on board. By Mike Corder. SENT: 125 words. UPCOMING: 300 words, photos by 1200 GMT.

SERBIA-ALBANIA

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian and Albanian officials are holding icebreaking talks after decades of tensions between the Balkan foes that have been further fueled by a recent drone incident at a soccer match. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic is meeting Edi Rama in the first visit to Serbia by an Albanian premier in 68 years. By Dusan Stojanovic. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words, photos by 1400 GMT.

ROMANIA-ELECTIONS

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania's foreign minister has resigned amid complaints that Romanians living abroad were unable to vote in the country's presidential elections. Romanians in Paris, London, Munich and elsewhere said they had to stand in line for hours and were unable to vote in the Nov. 2 election. This weekend, thousands of people protested against the government in Romania, saying it prevented expats from voting. By Alison Mutler. SENT: 130 words. UPCOMING: 300 words by 1400 GMT.