November 18, 2019 / 2:59 PM / a month ago

Russia detains activists after giant blow-up whale protest near Kremlin

Greenpeace activists take part in a protest in front of the Kremlin against animal rights violations, in Moscow, Russia November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained two activists on Monday after they floated a giant inflatable killer whale on the Moskva River outside the Kremlin to call on authorities to protect the creatures, protesters said.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace said it had staged the stunt to urge authorities to ban the capture of whales for educational or cultural purposes after dozens of beluga and killer whales were caught last year to be sold to marine parks or aquariums in China.

The captured whales became a cause celebre when they were kept in cramped enclosures in Russia’s Far East that were likened by activists to a whale prison. The whales were released back into the wild earlier this year after the outcry.

On Monday, activists rowed into the river with a blow-up whale bearing the slogan: “Thanks for letting us go, don’t catch us anymore.”

Police detained the activists as well as a photographer for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Greenpeace said in a statement. The Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Novaya Gazeta said its photographer was later released.

“Until there is a ban on catching killer whales, belugas and other types of whale for educational or cultural purposes ... they can be caught again and sold to China,” an activist said.

Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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