Russia arrests 10 near disputed Khimki forest

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Russian police on Tuesday arrested 10 environmental activists who were trying to prevent logging in a Moscow forest where a disputed highway is to be built, the group said.

"About 10 Khimki forest activists that tried to stop illegal logging... were detained by the Khimki police," the movement to defend the Khimki forest said in a statement.

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

A video from the scene showed a police colonel announcing through a megaphone that the gathering of about 20 people was illegal, with the activists countering they wanted to check the loggers' documents permitting the work.

Police then rounded up the activists and took them to a van, the video showed.

Chirikova's campaign against the Khimki highway gained popular support and last summer attracted a huge rally, led by rock singer Yury Shevchuk. President Dmitry Medvedev responded by putting a temporary freeze on the project.

But the Russian government decided late last year that the project to lay the first modern highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg should go ahead, although it would destroy around 100 hectares of trees.

© 2011 AFP

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