MOSCOW –MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin orders troops deployed near Ukraine to return to their home bases, while fighting continues in the eastern parts of the country. The order appears to go further than a similar statement by the Russian leader two weeks ago that troops were being pulled back from the border to shooting ranges. The West said they saw no sign of a pullout after Putin’s earlier claim of a withdrawal and NATO on Monday says it didn’t see any immediate movements to validate the latest assertions. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 580 words, photos, interactive. UPCOMING: 700 words by 1130 GMT.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Belgrade braces for a river surge that threatens to inundate Serbia’s main power plant and cause major power cuts in the crisis-stricken country as the Balkans struggle with the worst flooding in southeastern Europe in more than a century. At least 17 people died in Serbia in five days of flooding, and at least another 17 in Bosnia, but the death toll is expected to rise as floodwaters recede in some locations, laying bare the full scale of the damage. By Dusan Stojanovic. SENT: 340 words, photos, video. UPCOMING: 600 words by 1500 GMT, photos, videos.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Former Bosnian Serb military chief Gen. Ratko Mladic has launched the defense case in his long-running U.N. trial for ordering Serb atrocities throughout the 1991-95 Bosnian war by calling as a witness a former Serb army officer. A summary of the testimony of Mile Sladoje, a former assistant commander of a Serb battalion in Sarajevo, has been read by one of Mladic’s lawyers and makes clear that Sladoje will deny ever being ordered by Mladic to deliberately target civilians with a sniping campaign — one of the key charges. The 72-year-old Mladic denies all 11 charges, that include genocide. He faces a life sentence if convicted. By Mike Corder. SENT: 137. UPCOMING: 300 words by 1200 GMT.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish news reports say sensors pointed to high levels of toxic gas inside a coal mine days before Turkey’s worst mining disaster, but company officials took no action. On Monday, prosecutors formally arrested two more people over the fire in the mine in the western town of Soma that killed 301, raising the number of suspects facing charges of negligent death to five. By Berza Simsek and Suzan Fraser. SENT: 130 words, photo. UPCOMING: 500 words by 1500 GMT, photos.
LONDON — The board of AstraZeneca rejects the improved $119 billion takeover offer from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, a decision that leads to a sharp slide in the British company’s share price as investors think it effectively brings an end to the protracted and increasingly bitter takeover saga. By Gregory Katz and Linda A. Johnson. SENT: 950 words, photo.
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