A group of 20 marchers who defied a ban on Slavic Pride was forcefully broken up by Belarus police on Saturday morning.

The event was cancelled by Minsk city officials but a small group decided to march anyway.

Officials said the march was cancelled because of a law stating protests cannot be held near subway stations, although Pride organisers rubbished this and claimed the route had been used to parades many times before.

The small group which chose to march was broken up by police armed with batons and activists said they had been beaten.

Some reports from the scene said marchers had been violently thrown to the ground and hurt by police.

Russian activist Nikolai Alekseev told Reuters. “The police reaction was completely disproportionate to the threat which they thought the protesters posed.

“There were 20 people there, behaving peacefully, there were no scuffles and there was no basis for such a rough operation by the authorities.”

Seven people were arrested and released today and GayRussia.ru reports that each was fined 17,500 Belarusian Rubles (£4) for taking part in an unsanctioned public action.

Last year’s attempt at holding Slavic Pride was in Moscow, where police arrested around 20 participants, who accused them of heavy-handedness and violence.