The Stoxx Europe 600 index fell to 334.73, setting it on track for the lowest closing level in a week.
Several prominent companies were among major movers after reporting earnings. Shares of Veolia Environnement SA jumped 7.3% after the French company said itexpects revenue to grow in 2014. The news came as the water- and waste-management company reported a net loss in 2013, due to restructuring charges booked during the year.
Shares of Royal Bank of Scotland Group slid 8.9% after the majority-state-owned bank posted a loss of 9 billion pounds ($15 billion) for last year and said revenue dropped 12%.
RSA Insurance Group UK gave up 3.4% after the company launched a £775 million rights issue to strengthen its balance sheet. The company reported a sharp decline in operating profit, which is a key measure in the insurance industry.
The broader losses for European markets came as tensions in Ukraine intensified after armed men shot their way into regional government buildings in the country’s Crimean region and raised Russian flags early Thursday.
After the incident, Ukraine’s acting president warned that any movements by the Russian military in Crimea, aside from the Russian Black Sea fleet’s base in Sevastopol, would be treated as an act of aggression. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, via his Twitter account, urged Russia not to take any action that would “escalate tension.”
Ukraine’s UX index lost 2.2% to 1,096.21, according to the Ukrainian Exchange website.
The Russian ruble fell to an all-time low against the euro-dollar basket, with the euro trading at 49.4256. Against the dollar, the ruble shed 0.4%. pushing the dollar to 36.1825 rubles, according to FactSet data.
The political uncertainty also weighed more broadly on the euro , which fell against most major currencies and traded at $1.3654 from Wednesday’s level of $1.3680.