Russian bikers’ flirtation with Kremlin politics sparks protest from Lithuanian fellows

Alexander Zaldostanov
Reuters/Scanpix

The Kaunas region chapter of the Lithuanian Biker Congress said they were upset by the Russian bikers’ planned road trip from Moscow to Berlin in tribute to the Soviet victory against Nazi Germany in World War Two. Polish bikers, too, have voiced their objections and now Lithuanian bikers from Kaunas are joining in the protest.

Russia’s Night Wolves MC were planning a 6,000-kilometre ride through Russia, Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany. The Russians were to depart on 25 April and make stops at places like Auschwitz in southern Poland along the way to Berlin.

The BBC reported that Poles organized a protest, saying that the Russian bikers were supporting President Vladimir Putin‘s policies in Ukraine.

“Is this ride across Poland a warning for Poles or also the beginning of Russian aggression?” read a manifesto in the Facebook page of the rally.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said the planned ride was a “provocation”, saying a final decision on whether the bikers should be allowed into the country would be taken by the border guard.

Meanwhile spokesman of the Lithuanian Biker Congress (Kaunas region chapter) Marius, member of Hells Angels MC Lithuania, commented that such rides were inappropriate in the light of recent tensions in Russian-Western relations.

“Their club was planning to repeat the Red Army’s march from Moscow to Berlin. It’s an expedition with flags and motorcycles. The bikers as stand-ins for troops. Their idea is to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Second World War and ride their bikes across all Europe, just like the Soviet army did. Is it really the time to incite this kind of chauvinist military passions, when Russian-Ukrainian relations are so shaky, when entire Europe is so tense?” he said.

According to Marius, bikers should take no part in politics. “However, Surgeon [Zaldostanov’s alias] and his Night Wolves are a politicized group. In our statement, we say that he got confused between his biker beliefs and his politics.”

Marius also says that Night Wolves sent their representatives to Crimea and offered to form a squad to help pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.

“They always present themselves in such a light. Were it the first time, if they wanted to pay tribute to their grandfathers’ death, take a ride peacefully, without all the pomp, no one would have reacted. But here they are making noise, singing praises to Stalin. […] Neither Stalin, nor Hitler should be revered as icons. But he [Zaldostanov] keeps shouting about how Stalin was a man of gold, that everything was cool, that we should bring those times back,” Marius says.

He explains that the biker subculture originated in the United States, hence the English names of most motorcycle clubs. Zaldostanov’s Ночные Волки MC were also at first called Night Wolves MC.

“But later they switched to Cyrillic, many of their international chapters drifted away, seceded. There used to be a Night Wolves chapter in Lithuania, it operated in Vilnius. But how can, for instance, a German wear insignia saying ‘Ночные Волки’?” Marius says.

According to him, his fellow bikers could not remain silent and decided to make a public statement that the Russian Night Wolves were not welcome in Lithuania.

Asked about a Lithuanian campaign, Mission Siberia, where several dozen volunteers go to Siberia each year to pay tribute to people from the Baltics exiled under Stalin, Marius says it cannot be compared to the Russian bikers’ trip from Moscow to Berlin. The latter, according to Marius, has less to do with reverence to the dead than with projecting power. “Putin needs such dogs, he throws a stick and they run.”

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