“A Ride to Honor Russia’s Past Cuts a Path Through Its Current Conflicts”
The New York Times, April 16, 2015, p.A13
“Several hundred leather-clad motorcyclists from the Night Wolves, a club closely allied with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, plan to roar from Moscow to Berlin this month for the 70th anniversary of the Soviets’ victory over Nazi Germany. Like the Red Army before them, the Night Wolves will have several countries to cross on the way, including Poland. And given the current tensions over Ukraine and widespread worries that Mr. Putin may have other aggressive designs on his neighbors, the prospect of hundreds of Russian bikers’ roaring across the Polish countryside — not to mention Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria or Germany — is not being greeted with joy in all quarters. … A Facebook page opposing the event had 11,000 likes by Wednesday afternoon with a logo featuring a Polish eagle with a lit match chasing a flaming wolf. Meanwhile, a petition calling for the motorcycle rally to be banned had attracted 4,000 signatures, and some Polish lawmakers were calling on their government to find some way to block the event. … The club, which claims 5,000 active members, is known for supporting patriotic causes in Russia, and the group’s leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, known as the Surgeon, is said to be a close friend of Mr. Putin’s. An event by the group celebrating Russia’s annexation of Crimea last year was broadcast across Russia. … Most of the Russian bikers plan to follow a roundabout route from Moscow that passes through Minsk, Belarus; Wroclaw, Poland; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna; Prague; and Munich before reaching Berlin on May 9. But a group of about 300 will first cross into Poland from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on April 25.”
Quickie analysis: Politics or no, celebration of victory over the Nazis or no, it’s easy to understand the sentiment of not wanting a large Russian biker gang in town.