ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) - Russian police detained around 25 gay rights activists who took part in an unsanctioned rally in St Petersburg on Saturday, according to Reuters witnesses.

A few dozen activists gathered at Palace Square on Saturday afternoon, defying a ban to hold the rally.

Organisers had said they would stage one-man protests to demand freedom of association after city authorities turned down their request to hold a parade.

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Police detained campaigners who unfurled rainbow flags or held placards, dragging them into a police bus. There were no clashes between police and the activists.

Russia passed a law in 2013 banning the spreading of gay "propaganda".

Last month, Russian police briefly detained British LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell after he protested near the Kremlin in support of gay rights. [nL8N1TG430]

(Writing by Maria Kiselyova; editing by Jason Neely)