- - Sunday, May 13, 2012

LONDON — A lawyer for an exiled Russian oligarch has disclosed that his client gave financial assistance to a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II over several years.

Lawyer Mark Hastings said in a statement that Boris Berezovsky is a longstanding friend of Prince Michael and never sought or obtained any benefit from the friendship.

The prince’s spokesman, Simon Astaire, stressed that the payments were “conducted properly” and that all relevant tax was paid.

The statement was issued after the Sunday Times reported that the Russian tycoon sent the prince a total of $514,320 through offshore companies from 2002 to 2008.

According to Buckingham Palace, Prince Michael is not in the line of succession to the throne and receives no public money.

Mr. Berezovsky, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, has lived in Britain since 2003.

RUSSIA

Thousands protest without permits

MOSCOW — Prominent Russian novelists and poets led a street protest by more than 10,000 people in Moscow on Sunday without obtaining the required permit, and police did not intervene.

The demonstrators skirted the law by remaining silent and carrying no posters, even though the demonstration clearly had been organized as a rally against President Vladimir Putin.

The gathering was the latest of several impromptu protests that have taken place in Moscow since Mr. Putin’s inauguration May 7, held by people unhappy that he is the country’s formal leader once again.

Lyudmila Ulitskaya, a best-selling author whose books have been translated internationally, lauded Moscow authorities for their restraint Sunday.

“Today’s a significant day for the city,” she said. “The Moscow government is being reasonable for the first time. It has realized that the protest movement is not about people who break shop windows and throw Molotov cocktails.”

Police had detained hundreds of people who tried to get near Mr. Putin’s cortege during the inauguration, some of whom were merely wearing white ribbons - a symbol of the Russian protest.

Since then, activists have staged “flash mobs” across Moscow, suddenly assembling in public places where they camp and remain for the night. Many of them have been detained for taking part in an unsanctioned gathering.

On Sunday afternoon, the Russian writers led what they termed a “stroll” in Moscow aimed at defending people’s rights to gather on the streets without authorities’ permission.

Best-selling novelist Grigory Chkhartishvili, better known under the pen name Boris Akunin, said before the walk began that he and his fellow authors wanted to check if people can really get detained “because they were putting on white ribbons.”

ITALY

Marchers protest legalized abortion

ROME — A few thousand people opposed to Italy’s 1978 law allowing abortion marched through the Italian capital in a protest drawing people from around the world, including Americans and Poles.

Nuns, priests and lay people marched in Rome Sunday from the Colosseum to Castel Sant’Angelo, a landmark near the Vatican.

In Italy, abortion on demand is legal through to the end of the third month of pregnancy.

After a long battle between secular forces and the church, voters upheld the law in a 1981 referendum. There is no major momentum now to rescind the law.

Some in the Mother’s Day march pushed babies in strollers.

One American participant, the Rev. Dominick Holtz, from St. Louis, said the march united people from around the world against legalized abortion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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