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Kiev announces town 'liberated' but residents dumbfounded

Ukraine's government announced Wednesday its forces had "liberated" an eastern town from pro-Kremlin separatists -- but AFP found no sign of military units and puzzled residents said they had never been under rebel control. The interior ministry said in a statement that Svyatogorsk, a town of 5,000 inhabitants around 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of the flashpoint city of Slavyansk, was "liberated from illegal armed separatist groups" by special forces, with no casualties.

Merkel invites Hollande to Baltic coast on May 9-10

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet French President Francois Hollande in her electoral district on the Baltic Sea on May 9 and 10, her office said Wednesday. German media said the talks, described by the French president's office as "informal", would focus on the Ukraine crisis. Merkel has previously invited other leaders to the northeastern city of Stralsund, including former US president George W. Bush in 2006 and then-eurogroup leader Jean-Claude Juncker in 2012.

Telekom Austria proves slippery target for Slim

By Georgina Prodhan and Angelika Gruber VIENNA (Reuters) - Tycoon Carlos Slim stumbled in his bid for control of Telekom Austria <TELA.VI> on Wednesday, as a meeting designed to rubber-stamp a co-ownership deal with the Austrian government was boycotted by labor representatives unhappy with the proposal.

Exhumation of suspected mass grave begins in Serbia

Forensic experts began exhumation work Wednesday on a suspected mass grave in Serbia believed to contain remains of ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war, officials said. The exhumation at the Rudnica quarry near the southwestern town of Raska was ordered after human remains were found in the area in December after more than three years of searching the site. Dozens of experts were engaged in the process, which would last "until full investigation is done," said the chairman of Serbia's committee for missing persons, Veljko Odalovic.

Presidential poll 'destructive' for Ukraine: Russian FM

Ukraine's going ahead with its May 25 presidential election without consulting first with pro-Russian voters "is very destructive for the country," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday in an interview with state-controlled RT television. He said Moscow would only "recognise something that would be based on the all-inclusive process", adding, "to call an election without finding some common ground with the east and the south of Ukraine I think is very destructive for the country." edy/neo/rmb/cc

Moscow insists Kiev pull back troops from the east: foreign ministry

Russia on Wednesday insisted that Kiev pull back its troops from the east of Ukraine to ease the escalating crisis in the country. "The Russian side once again insists on the immediate de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine's southeast, the pullback of units of the Ukrainian army and the start of a genuine internal Ukrainian dialogue involving all of the country's regions and political formations," the foreign ministry said.

Canada's oil, gas catch Europe's eye amid Ukraine troubles: Polish ambassador

OTTAWA - The Russian invasion of Crimea is making Alberta's oil and gas more attractive in European capitals, says Poland's ambassador to Canada. Poland supports the idea of importing Canadian oil and gas, envoy Marcin Bosacki said Wednesday prior to the start of a two-day visit to his country by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. "This point of view is being shared in a growing number of European capitals in the last two months since the Crimea invasion," Bosacki said.

Turkey's Erdogan offers condolences for 1915 Armenia killings

By Jonny Hogg ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan offered what the government said were unprecedented condolences on Wednesday to the grandchildren of Armenians killed in World War One by Ottoman soldiers. In a statement issued on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the deeply contested deaths, Erdogan unexpectedly described the events of 1915 as "inhumane", using more conciliatory language than has often been the case for Turkish leaders.

'Murdered' Ukraine politician faced hostile mob, video shows

SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - The Ukrainian town councilor whose apparent torture and murder helped to prompt a threatened new government offensive in the east was mobbed by a hostile, pro-Russian crowd before he disappeared, a video of the incident shows. The apparent murder of Volodymyr Rybak and a second man prompted the European Union to call on Russia to use its influence to stop kidnappings and killings in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, scene of separatist rebellions against Kiev's leaders.

Bailout exit beckons for Portugal after record bond sale

By Andrei Khalip and Emelia Sithole-Matarise LISBON/LONDON (Reuters) - Portugal sold its first bonds at auction in three years on Wednesday, paying a record low yield that was seen as vote of market confidence and a boost to Lisbon's chances of making a clean break from its bailout next month.
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