This article originally appeared at Hospodářské Noviny (Economic News). Translated for RI by Anthony Grulich
- The night wolves have cancelled their graceful ride due to difficulties crossing borders.
- Only a few members of the motorcycle gang will arrive in Berlin.
- The action was closely monitored by the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. Reportedly, there was no “drama” involved.
The Night Wolves
The oldest biker gang in Russia has about five thousand members and is lead by Alexander Zaldostanov nicknamed the Surgeon. Although the group presents itself as apolitical, they openly support Vladimir Putin. After the annexation of the Crimea its members assisted with guard patrols, participated in his campaign for parliamentary elections in 2011. They are close with the Orthodox Church. Critics label them brutes and nationalists, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is also a member. The Russian bikers from the Night Wolves club have been active for 26 years.
The triumphal passage of Russian bikers across Europe has become a farce. The Night Wolves decided to cancel their ride due to difficulties crossing borders on Tuesday, only a few members of the gang will arrive in Berlin
The official reason, which stopped the bikers on the Belarus-Polish border, was shortcomings in their Schengen visa applications. A significant role in preparations of the plan to put the brakes the Wolves was played by informal talks held amongst the Foreign Ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. They repeatedly harmonized their approach, as to their stance on the passage of Vladimir Putin’s sympathizers.
“We just call one another. And when it’s necessary, then every day. For example, so that we can tell each other how things are happening. No drama,” said Czech head of diplomacy Lubomír Zaorálek (ČSSD), on whether the positions of all the three countries were previously agreed.
This confirmed that he was in regular contact with Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Grzegorz Schetynou concerning the convoy in recent days.
The Night Wolves wanted to take a journey through Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Germany on their six thousand kilometer long ride from Moscow to Berlin. In mid April Zaorálek had already called the journey a provocation.
The poles then sent the Russian embassy a diplomatic note just before the convoy set off on their way last weekend. In it, they announced that they shall not authorize the biker’s transit through their territory. The reason was their alleged failure to provide detailed information on the program and route of the convoy.
The Russian side responded to the note with a sharp tone, when they labeled the reasons that the Polish diplomacy had given as a lie and a political decision. The information the Poles had available, was supposedly complete.
The Gang initially gave notice, that even problems on the borders would not stop them. One variant was a route through Finland to Germany. The German authorities however, eventually suspended the validity of Schengen visas for at least part of the group’s members – without which, Russians may not enter into any EU member states.
Moreover, the Germans have given advance warning that they will hinder the Russian biker’s ride to Berlin.