TOP STORIES FROM EUROPE AT 1220 GMT
MOSCOW -- In a surprise decision, Russia's central bank on Friday cut its key interest rate, which it had hiked in previous months to support the collapsing ruble, in order to help the fading economy. The bank explained its decision to cut the rate from 17 percent to 15 percent by saying that the risks of an economic slowdown are now higher than the risks associated with the ruble's drop. The currency's 50 percent drop since the summer has caused a spike in inflation. By Nataliya Vasilyeva. SENT: 320 words, photos.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A 19-year-old student carrying a fake pistol who forced his way into the Dutch national broadcaster and demanded airtime was in custody Friday as police investigated his motives. Prosecutors and police have not identified the man who was seen pacing around a TV studio at the NOS broadcaster's headquarters in the city of Hilversum Thursday night holding what appeared to be a pistol with a silencer. However, Dutch media widely reported his name as Tarik Z., a student at the Delft Technical University. By Mike Corder. SENT: 390 words, photos.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal have upheld genocide convictions against two senior Bosnian Serbs for their roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the first final judgment for genocide by the United Nations court. SENT: 130 words.
FRANKFURT, Germany -- Falling oil prices and a weak economy have sent prices in the eurozone even lower ahead of the start of a 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) stimulus effort by the European Central Bank. Consumer prices fell 0.6 percent in the 12 months to January, accelerating the 0.2 percent annual drop from December. By David McHugh. SENT: 500 words, photos.
BUDAPEST, Hungary -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to Budapest next week for talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban that come at a time of strain between the two nations, with Orban moving closer to Russia and imposing higher taxes and other burdens on German and other foreign companies operating in the country. By Pablo Gorondi. UPCOMING: 690 words by 1300 GMT.
ATHENS, Greece -- The ratings agency Fitch says an agreement between Greece's new left-wing government and rescue lenders is still possible but is warning that drawn-out negotiations pose a "high risk" to the country's fragile economy. The agency said Friday both sides have a "strong incentive" to reach an agreement to release the remaining money from 240 billion-euro ($270 billion) bailout programs, despite a pledge by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipas' government to renege on several key commitments made to lenders. SENT: 130 words, photos.
KIEV, Ukraine -- At least 12 civilians and 5 Ukrainian troops have been killed in the past 24 hours in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine. Full-blown fighting between Russian-backed separatists and government forces erupted anew at the start of January following a month of relative tranquility. SENT: 130 words.
SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Zhelyu Zhelev, a philosopher and communist-era dissident who became Bulgaria's first democratically elected president in 1990, died Friday, his family said. He was 79. Zhelev was the founder and first leader of the pro-democracy Union of Democratic Forces after the demise of the country's Stalinist regime in 1989. He served as president until 1997. By Veselin Toshkov. SENT: 380 words.
BERLIN -- Organizers of a Swiss music festival say Israeli conductor Israel Yinon collapsed during a performance and died. Yinon was conducting a piece by Richard Strauss on Thursday night when he collapsed, said Marc Reinhardt, a spokesman for the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, whose students were performing. SENT: 130 words.
ROME -- Italian Premier Matteo Renzi's candidate in this week's presidential election could cost him backing for his reform agenda. Lawmakers were voting in Parliament Friday, a day after a first round fell far short of producing the two-thirds majority needed to elect a new head of state. Chances of victory improve on Saturday, when only a simple majority is needed. SENT: 130 words, photos.
BRUSSELS -- Belgian authorities have detained four suspects during an anti-terror sweep linked to the recruitment of potential jihadis to go fight in Syria. Police searched 22 homes mostly in northeastern Belgium early Friday but found no weapons, explosives or ammunition. SENT: 130 words.
MADRID -- Spain's economy grew by 1.4 percent in 2014, ending a five-year run of negative or flat figures and providing further evidence that the country is recovering from a crippling double-dip recession. The National Statistics Institute said Friday that the country's growth was helped by a 0.7 percent expansion in the final three months of the year, making for six consecutive quarters of quarter-on-quarter growth. SENT: 130 words.
BERLIN -- The Federal Statistical Office says German breweries saw their first increase in sales volume in 2014 after seven years of declines. Officials didn't speculate on the reason, but 2014 featured the football World Cup, which Germany won. The last previous increase in beer consumption in 2006 -- when Germany was the World Cup host. SENT: 120 words.