Russian police have detained about 15 environmentalists as they were trying to stop the cut down of trees in a disputed forest outside Moscow, the Russian media reported.
A campaign to protect the Khimki forest, to the north of Moscow, has been under way for more than 2 years, since a decision was taken by the local authorities to cut down a large part of the forest to give space for the first section of the Moscow-St. Petersburg toll highway.
Popular daily Gazeta said about 100 people wearing masks had arrived at the forest Friday morning and attacked the activists. Several people were reportedly injured as a result.
Yevgeniya Chirikova, the campaign leader, told the Ekho Mosckvy radio station that police arrived at the forest about an hour after they were called by activists. Police officers were quoted as saying workers hired to cut down trees had failed to provide police with a relevant permission.
Special purpose police unit (OMON) officers reportedly arrived at the scene following the inspection and detained about 15 people, including two journalists. Some media reports said up to 30 people were detained.
The Russian Union of Journalists has condemned the reporters' detention, describing it as a "gross violation of journalists' professional rights."
Since July 15, environmentalists have been on a round-the-clock duty at the forest in order to stop "illegal" attempts to cut down trees.
As Russia's Supreme Court has ruled that the decision on the road construction does not violate the law, the Khimki Forest Defense movement has filed a suit to the Strasbourg court over the issue.
The Moscow-St. Petersburg toll highway is scheduled to be put into operation in 2015.
MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti)