Pro-Putin Biker Gang Still Can’t Get Into Poland

For the second time, the Night Wolves were blocked from entering Poland to celebrate the Soviet Union's World War II victory.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. APRIL 29, 2016. Nochnyye Volki [Night Wolves] bikers in Moscow's International Biker Centre before the start of an annual rally from Moscow to Berlin. The race celebrates the 71st anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA. APRIL 29, 2016. Nochnyye Volki [Night Wolves] bikers in Moscow's International Biker Centre before the start of an annual rally from Moscow to Berlin. The race celebrates the 71st anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA. APRIL 29, 2016. Nochnyye Volki [Night Wolves] bikers in Moscow's International Biker Centre before the start of an annual rally from Moscow to Berlin. The race celebrates the 71st anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS (Photo by Sergei FadeichevTASS via Getty Images)

For the second year in a row, Poland has dashed the hopes of Russia’s pro-Putin biker gang, the Night Wolves. The gang wanted to celebrate Russia’s World War II victory by following the path of the Red Army as it marched across Eastern Europe to Berlin, but were denied entry by Polish authorities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Polish ambassador over the incident on Friday, calling the denial of entry a "particularly cynical and malicious gesture aimed at deliberate deterioration in Russian-Polish relations," according to The Associated Press.

The 5,000-member motorcycle club received up to $1 million in grants from the Kremlin in 2014 and 2015 for their motorcycle shows. According to Rolling Stone, the shows have evolved from ragtag ensembles of jousting knights and women stripteasing with snakes to elaborate World War II re-enactments. Their real-life actions have evolved as well: In 2014, the Night Wolves fought alongside pro-Russian militias in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

For the second year in a row, Poland has dashed the hopes of Russia’s pro-Putin biker gang, the Night Wolves. The gang wanted to celebrate Russia’s World War II victory by following the path of the Red Army as it marched across Eastern Europe to Berlin, but were denied entry by Polish authorities.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Polish ambassador over the incident on Friday, calling the denial of entry a “particularly cynical and malicious gesture aimed at deliberate deterioration in Russian-Polish relations,” according to The Associated Press.

The 5,000-member motorcycle club received up to $1 million in grants from the Kremlin in 2014 and 2015 for their motorcycle shows. According to Rolling Stone, the shows have evolved from ragtag ensembles of jousting knights and women stripteasing with snakes to elaborate World War II re-enactments. Their real-life actions have evolved as well: In 2014, the Night Wolves fought alongside pro-Russian militias in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

The Night Wolves began as an anti-communist gang in the final years of the Soviet Union. However, the gang’s leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, now openly expresses admiration for communist dictator Josef Stalin, and the motorcycle shows feed into rising Soviet nostalgia in Russia.

In early April, as the ride to Berlin was being planned, Russia’s state-sponsored media organization, Sputnik News, attributed the 2015 denial of entry to “hysteria in Europe.” But the gang was ready with the proper paperwork, according to the news agency.

“This year, the column will be more numerous, we all have Schengen visas on our hands,” said event organizer Andrew Bobrovski. All of them, that is, except Zaldostanov, who is reportedly under European sanctions.  

The visas apparently were not enough to assuage the Polish government’s security concerns over allowing the Night Wolves into the country. They were denied entry on Friday.

Watch last year’s Night Wolves show in Moscow:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoEsAzIhn5o

Photo credit: SERGEI FADEICHEV/TASS via Getty Images

Megan Alpert is a fellow at Foreign Policy. Her previous bylines have included The Guardian, Guernica Daily, and Earth Island Journal. Twitter: @megan_alpert

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