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Russian police have detained five activists who tried to deliver a petition to prosecutors in Moscow against the treatment of gay people in Chechnya. Police said they arrested them because their actions amounted to an unsanctioned protest.

Hundreds of thousands of people had signed the petition calling for an official investigation into the alleged torture and killing of gay men in the Russian territory.

Police detained the activists, four Russian and one Italian, on Thursday as they walked along Moscow’s Tverskaya Street holding mostly empty boxes with the words “Justice for the Chechen 100” written on them.