The artist who fled Russia after authorities seized his paintings depicting President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in women's underwear has begun to take steps to claim permanent asylum in France.
"I don't want to return to Russia," Konstantin Altunin said in a phone interview from Paris. "I want to live and work in an atmosphere of freedom."
Alexander Donskoy, the owner of the Museum of Power gallery in St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city, said Thursday he has been unable to secure an attorney to help retrieve the paintings, which have gone missing, after 20 lawyers rejected requests to represent the gallery.
Putin who hosts the Group of 20 nations in his hometown St. Petersburg on Sept. 5-6, is being accused of stamping down on opposition movements, human rights and freedom of speech in Russia.
Donskoy said in an interview that authorities who raided his premises left no documentation after they took four works by Altunin. He doesn't "believe the artworks could be returned" because he found no trace of them at police headquarters.
Spader's the bad guy in next 'Avengers'
The "Avengers" sequel has its villain. Marvel announced Thursday that James Spader will play Ultron in its "Avengers: Age of Ultron." In the comics, the character is a robot with artificial intelligence. "Age of Ultron" is the sequel to the 2012 box office hit "The Avengers." Disney will release it in May 2015. The film will be directed by Joss Whedon and will star Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson.
pea in the pod: Fergie proudly announced that she gave birth to 7-pound, 10-ounce Axl Jack Duhamel on Thursday. Axl Jack is Fergie and actor Josh Duhamel's first child. The two married in 2009. She officially changed her name from Stacy Ann Ferguson to Fergie Duhamel this month. Fergie is one-fourth of the Black Eyed Peas.
Liberace's pad: A 15,000-square-foot Las Vegas mansion once owned by Liberace was sold for $500,000 in cash to a British businessman who said he learned to play the piano after being inspired by the flamboyant performer. The buyer — Martyn Ravenhill — closed the deal on Aug. 23 for $29,000 below its list price and about $3 million less than it was sold for seven years ago. The two-bedroom, 10-bathroom home was built in 1962 and sits on a half-acre lot in an aging neighborhood near the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.