- - Sunday, February 26, 2012

RUSSIA

Thousands form human chain in anti-Putin protest

MOSCOW | Thousands of people holding hands formed a 10-mile human chain encircling central Moscow on Sunday in the latest protest against Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin, who was president from 2000 to 2008, is running for a third term in a March 4 election. He is expected to win easily against four Kremlin-approved challengers, but an unprecedented wave of protests has undermined his image as a strong leader who rules with broad public support.

Sunday’s protest appeared to have drawn close to the 34,000 people that opposition activists estimated were needed to complete the chain along the Garden Ring. Demonstrators wore the white ribbons that have become a symbol of the peaceful anti-Putin protest movement.

Putin supporters also were out on the Garden Ring on Sunday. Wearing heart-shaped red signs around their necks that said “Putin loves everyone,” they copied the protesters by handing out ribbons of their own.

Protests also were held on the Garden Ring on two previous Sundays. Hundreds of demonstrators drove cars decorated with white ribbons and balloons as others waved from the sidewalks and overpasses as the cars went by, horns blaring.

The largest protests the country has seen in two decades began in December following a parliamentary election that saw widespread vote rigging to boost the results for Mr. Putin’s party.

SPAIN

King’s son-in-law returns to court for questioning

PALMA DE MALLORCA | The son-in-law of Spain’s king appeared in court for a second day to answer questions about suspected fraudulent deals.

Inaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, has not been charged with a crime, but is being investigated by a judge about whether he used his privileged position to secure lucrative deals for a nonprofit foundation he ran, then fraudulently diverted some of the money for personal benefit.

Mr. Urdangarin did not speak to journalists Sunday, but his attorney, Mario Pascual Vives, said he was not worried that Judge Jose Castro had asked about money that allegedly had been diverted to an offshore account.

Under Spanish law, the judge will decide whether the prosecution has adequate evidence to file charges against the duke.

GERMANY

Germany to cut subsidies for solar power by 30 percent

BERLIN | Germany plans to reduce government subsidies supporting solar power by up to 30 percent within a year because higher-than-expected demand has made the scheme far more costly than authorities initially expected.

The country’s drive to abandon nuclear energy in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster led to a boom in solar power installations last year that vastly exceeded the government’s forecasts.

Owners of solar power installations in Germany receive a guaranteed above-market price for the electricity they sell to the energy grid. That amounted last year to a subsidy of some $7.9 billion, which is financed through a levy on every household’s electricity bill.

Homeowners and private investors installed new solar power capacity of about 7,500 megawatts last year, while the government had forecast a new capacity from 2,500 to 3,500 megawatts.

Solar power has become more competitive, making room for cuts to the subsidies, and showing that it is “a success story amid the country’s transformation toward renewable energies,” Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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