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Ukraine local boss puts price on head of Russian 'saboteurs'

By Pavel Polityuk and Alastair Macdonald KIEV (Reuters) - A billionaire regional governor in eastern Ukraine put a $10,000 bounty on the head of any Russian "saboteur" on Thursday and pledged a reward for the Ukrainian troops who shot protesters at their base overnight.

Putin in thinly-veiled invasion threat as Ukraine talks drag out

Russian President Vladimir Putin left the door open to intervening in Ukraine Thursday in a thinly-veiled threat that coincided with crunch Geneva talks striving to de-escalate the crisis. Kiev also appeared to ratchet up the pressure by banning entry to its territory for all Russian males aged 16 to 60, airline Aeroflot announced just as negotiations between the foreign ministers of Russia, the United States, the European Union and Ukraine took place.

European stocks dip after surging

Europe's main stock markets fell slightly on Thursday following the previous day's strong gains, with investors taking profits before earnings updates from US heavyweights. London's FTSE 100 dipped 0.12 percent to stand at 6,576.42 points in late morning deals. Frankfurt's DAX 30 fell 0.26 percent to 9,293.69 points and the CAC 40 in Paris retreated also by 0.26 percent to 4,394.14 compared with Wednesday's closing values.

Casualty numbers used as a weapon in Ukraine crisis

By Alissa de Carbonnel and Gabriela Baczynska MOSCOW/KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Around 6:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Vladimir Maximovich heard the news that was ricocheting around Russian media and online: at least four pro-Russian activists had been killed and others wounded by Ukrainian troops at an airfield near the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk. As the head of the emergency unit at the city's public hospital, he got ready to receive the injured and treat them. They never showed up.

Ukraine troops kill pro-Russia militants ahead of key talks

Ukrainian troops killed three pro-Russian militants in the country's tense southeast early Thursday, just hours ahead of key talks in Geneva seeking to ease the escalating crisis in the former Soviet republic. The gun battle erupted overnight when around 300 people lobbed petrol bombs and fired weapons at an interior ministry base in the port city of Mariupol, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page.

US, Russia trade accusations ahead of Ukraine talks

Russia and the US traded barbs Wednesday ahead of high-level talks on the crisis in Ukraine as a military operation ordered by Kiev to oust pro-Moscow separatists in its eastern regions collapsed. A concerned NATO said it was deploying more forces in eastern Europe and called for Russia to stop "destabilising" the former Soviet republic, which has been in deep turmoil since the ouster of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych in February.

Crimea on bumpy road to becoming a Russian province

By Alissa de Carbonnel SIMFEROPOL, Crimea (Reuters) - Natalia Rudenko's ears were still ringing from being shouted at by a father demanding that the Ukrainian-language school she has run for 17 years in Crimea's capital now teach in Russian when local officials turned up at her office to dismiss her.

UN faults Russian claims of Ukraine rights abuses

The UN on Tuesday said there was no evidence of widespread attacks on Ukraine's Russian minority, with separatists stoking fears to justify Moscow's takeover of Crimea. "We do not have any credible evidence of issues that would justify concerns on the part of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine," said senior UN human rights official Gianni Magazzeni, releasing a report on two monitoring missions there.

Ukraine armed forces land airborne troops in eastern town

By Gabriela Baczynska KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukrainian airborne troops landed in a town in the east of the country on Tuesday after the defense ministry announced it was launching a "special operation" there against pro-Russian separatists. The town of Kramatorsk is one of 10 localities in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east where separatist rebellions have broken out and the move suggested Ukraine's authorities were going ahead with a plan for a broad military crackdown to end the unrest which began 10 days ago.

Ukraine excludes discussing 'internal affairs' at Geneva talks

Ukraine on Tuesday ruled out any discussion of its "internal affairs" at talks this week with Russia, the US and EU, amid spiralling tensions between Kiev and pro-Moscow militants. "The main objective of the talks we are planning to have is the de-escalation, to find real ways how to de-escalate the situation," said Yurii Klymenko, Kiev's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, location of Thursday's talks. "Ukraine is not going to discuss at this meeting the internal issues of Ukraine," he told reporters.
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