Activists of the movement to protect the Khimki forest in the northwestern Moscow region hold a poster reading "Don't cut down Khimki's forest!" during a rally in Moscow. (ALEXEY SAZONOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The Defenders of the Khimki Forest, a group of activists who have been trying to prevent construction of a $1.7 billion highway from Moscow to St. Petersburg that will destroy an ancient forest outside of Moscow, made another stand in their epic struggle Tuesday.

As a result, 11 of them, including leaders Yevgenia Chirikova and Yaroslav Nikitenko, were taken to prison Tuesday afternoon. Later, another 15 demonstrating against the arrests also were arrested.

All of the activists were released late Tuesday.

Last year, the activists had managed to delay the project, which is backed by an array of powerful government and commercial interests. In an unlikely but as it turned out temporary victory, they persuaded President Dmitry Medvedev to freeze construction. He appointed a committee to explore the issue, and after they concluded it would be too expensive to change the route, Medvedev decided the project would proceed.

In a YouTube video of the confrontation Tuesday, the activists said a construction crew was cutting trees when they were only supposed to be hauling away those felled last summer. They asked to see documents permitting cutting of trees, but police instead accused them of holding an unsanctioned rally and took them to jail.