Three correspondents from the Russian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a sister network of VOA, were detained in Moscow while covering a rally against Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The journalists were arrested despite one of them telling police repeatedly that he was a representative of the press. According to a video of the arrest that one of the journalists filmed and managed to transmit, he also tells the officer to stop using physical force against him.
The nearly two-minute shaky video shows the journalist being escorted away after nightfall on Pushkinskaya Square and being placed into a police bus with more than 20 other people inside.
According to the correspondents, they were to be taken to the Kuntsevo police station.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said Russia, having launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine, "now seeks to deny its citizens access to any and all information that would expose the falsehoods it has used to justify the invasion."
Fly noted that the RFE/RL journalists were arrested in Moscow while covering an anti-war rally, calling it "an inconvenient challenge to the Kremlin's narrative."
He strongly condemned the detention of the RFE/RL journalists and called for their immediate release.
There have been reports that employees from other media outlets have also been detained. The security force presence in the center of Moscow included a noticeable accumulation of special equipment and National Guard fighters.
The arrests occurred after about 300-700 people had gathered near the monument to the writer Alexander Pushkin and chanted "No to war!"
OVD-Info, a nonprofit that monitors police arrests nationwide, said more than 1,700 people were detained at anti-war protests in 53 Russian cities. More than 900 were arrested in Moscow, and more than 400 in St. Petersburg, the monitor said.
The Telegram channel Baza reported that the Moscow Police received an order to suppress everything that could be considered a provocation, including Ukrainian flags and posters with inflammatory statements.