Between 20 and 40 activists have been arrested at Slavic Pride in Moscow by anti-riot police, early reports indicate.

According to a statement released by Pride organiser Nikolai Alekseev, violence was used to break up the peaceful march, which had been banned by Moscow authorities.

It was held to coincide with the Eurovision final which will be hosted by the city tonight. Attempts to hold a Pride march in previous years have been met with violence.

Among those arrested were British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell, and Chicago campaigner Andy Thayer. It is not yet clear how many campaigners braved threats of extremist violence to join the parade.

Nikolai Alekseev was allegedly held down by five armed riot officers and arrested.

In a statement, Alekseev called on artists due to perform at tonight’s Eurovision final to boycott the event to “send a message that Russia’s state oppression of human rights is not acceptable.”

He continued: “The Russian Government is using this years Eurovision in Moscow as a gala showpiece to show the world how far the country has improved since the early 1990’s. However, what was witnessed this afternoon on the streets of Moscow shows the world just how little Russia has travelled when it comes to supporting fundamental human rights.

“The police brutality that we witnessed here this afternoon is shocking. We planned a peaceful march to highlight the dire state of LGBT rights in Russia today. The police, given violent legitimacy by the openly homophobic Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, did not hold back with their weapons, despite the world’s media watching.

“We were defending the often violated human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. We demand the same legal protection against discrimination and hate crimes that none LGBT people enjoy.

“This episode has shamed the Russian Government and Moscow authorities before the world.”