MOSCOW — Three women protesting the prison sentence imposed on 19-year-old West German pilot Mathias Rust were dragged off a bustling Moscow promenade Sunday as hundreds of people looked on.
Bystanders crowded around as police yanked the seated women to their feet and shoved them from the cobblestoned Arbat Mall to a police bus more than 100 yards away. One woman tried to free herself from two policemen holding her by the wrists, shouting that they were hurting her.
Police also tried to seize the equipment of an NBC television crew and to prevent filming of the arrests.
The women, whose names were not immediately available, told reporters earlier they came to the Arbat to demonstrate for the release of the Rust, who was sentenced Sept. 4 by the Soviet Supreme Court to four years in labor camp.
Rust flew a single-engine private plane more than 400 miles from Helsinki, Finland, to Red Square on May 28 on what he told the court was an attempt to promote world peace. The court found that he made the unauthorized flight, through the elaborate Soviet air defense system, as a means of "self-advertisement."
The air defense chief was fired and the defense minister resigned shortly after the flight.
Alexander Bogdanov, 27, a member of an unofficial Leningrad peace organization called the Trust Group, had said Saturday that he would go to the Arbat to collect signatures on paper airplanes petitioning the Supreme Court for Rust's release.
"Rust's action was an action for peace and understanding between nations," he said.
Bogdanov apparently was not arrested Sunday, although he was on the Arbat minutes before the women were arrested.
The Arbat, a pedestrian mall less than a mile from the Kremlin, was crammed with strollers who flock there on weekends to shop, browse and have their portrait sketched by free-lance artists.
It was not immediately known if the three women were charged with a criminal offense. Rules adopted this month by the Moscow city council allow public protests, but require seven days' notice and bar demonstrations near the Kremlin or in major public squares.
As the women sat down outside the Praga Restaurant, at least 50 plainclothes and uniformed police gathered around them. NBC-TV's Moscow correspondent, Sandy Gilmour, said police tried to keep his crew from filming.
"They tried to grab our camera, and it hit the ground several times," Gilmour said. "I also had to pry a microphone cable from a militiaman's hand."
Bogdanov said Saturday that another member of the Trust Group was arrested in Leningrad before he could take the train to Moscow. He said Igor Barylnik, 27, was detained Friday evening and is being held in a psychiatric hospital.