The bikers, led by Night Wolves founder, Alexander Zaldostanov plan to start their 6,000 kilometer "Roads to Victory" journey in Moscow April 25th, riding through Belarus, Poland and the Czech Republic before arriving in Germany in time for May 9th, stopping at war memorials and carrying flags of victory.
Finding out about the Russian bikers' plans, Polish social media activists quickly organized a Facebook protest group, allegedly including Polish bikers, aimed at preventing the group from riding through Poland. The event has now collected over 9,200 signatures. The page calls the Night Wolves "Russian Bandits" and "criminals," predicting that the memorial ride may be "the start of Russian aggression," and calling on local bikers to come stop the Russians. Posters also claim that the Russian bikers have forgotten about the Soviet Union's "alliance" with Nazi Germany (referring to the Soviet German non-aggression pact of 1939), adding that they would not allow them to forget about the 22,000 Polish officers killed in Katyn in 1940 by Soviet security services.
Armed with media support, the Facebook group also wrote a petition to Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, calling for "a categorical ban on the issuance of visas and entry to Polish territory to Russian citizen Alexander Zaldostanov and his associates." The petition states that "if such visas have already been issued, we demand their annulment, and the disclosure of information about which Polish consulate issued them and on what basis."
Night Wolves' Response
Speaking to the Russian language service of Polish Radio, the Night Wolves' Zaldostanov noted that he was surprised by the uproar over the planned bike ride, noting that most Poles, including Polish bikers, which his club's members have come across "have been open-minded, most of them sharing our views on the idea of our [two peoples'] common victory over fascism." The biker recalled the Poles fighting alongside the Red Army all the way to Berlin. The biker added that he finds it hard to believe that the protests' organizers were bikers themselves: "It's a big question whether they are bikers or not. Such statements could be made by anyone."
As for the protesters, Zaldostanov explained that the bikers would "not be coming to them as guests, to stay. Our final destination is Berlin." The biker added that his "organization has its core believes and values, and we won't give up on them. Among them is the memory of victory in the Great Patriotic War – which we consider the pinnacle of Russian history. Therefore we will proceed as planned; they [the protesters] should not interfere with us."
Polish Bikers Grow Roots in Russia
The Night Wolves motorcycle club was founded in 1989. The group has been known for its efforts to raise Russian patriotism in the difficult period of the 1990s and early 2000s, and has been praised by the Russian leadership, including Vladimir Putin, for its members' efforts, including their work to prevent a color revolution from taking place in Russia.