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Russian police arrest 10 activists for highway protest

Russian police on Tuesday arrested 10 activists who were trying to stop logging in a Moscow forest for wood to be used to build a disputed highway, an environmental group said.

“About 10 Khimki forest activists who tried to stop illegal logging… were detained by the police,” the movement to defend the Khimki forest said in a statement.

The group’s coordinator Yevgenia Chirikova wrote in her Twitter blog that riot troops and local policemen beat and handcuffed some of the activists at the site near Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

A video from the scene showed a police colonel announcing on a megaphone that the gathering of about 20 people was illegal but the activists said they wanted to check the loggers’ documents permitting the work.

Police then rounded them up and bundled them in a van, the video showed.

Chirikova’s campaign against the Khimki highway has gained popular support. A huge rally was staged last summer, led by rock singer Yury Shevchuk, and President Dmitry Medvedev responded by temporarily shelving the project.

But the Russian government decided late last year that the first modern highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg should go ahead, despite destroying around 100 hectares (247 acres) of trees.