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    Poland Panicked by Proposed Russian Biker V-Day Ride to Berlin

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    Polish internet activists have vowed to disrupt plans by the Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves to stage a victory ride through Polish territory on the way to Berlin in honor of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Second World War.

    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.

    The group quickly gained the attention of Polish media, one of the protest action's organizers telling Kresy24.pl that they would not allow the "excursion of these Stalin-Mad Max hybrids" to take place. Conservative publications joined with the Facebook page organizers in calling the Night Wolves a "criminal organization," with Niezalezna.pl calling them "pets of Vladimir Putin" and Telewizja Polska "Putin's sweethearts" and warning of provocations. Tabloid paper Fakt.pl's article on the affair featured the absurd title "Bikers from Russia are a Threat to the Poles!"

    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."

    Much of the Polish media's rage over the Night Wolves seems to be about their relationship with Vladimir Putin. The Night Wolves have made no secret of their support for the Russian president.
    © RIA Novosti . Alexei Druzhinin
    Much of the Polish media's rage over the Night Wolves seems to be about their relationship with Vladimir Putin. The Night Wolves have made no secret of their support for the Russian president.

    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 question remains whether Polish bikers will participate in large numbers in the plans to stop the Night Wolves' victory ride. Polish bikers have long participated in cross-nation tours of the former Soviet Union, building close connections with bikers in the Baltic states, Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Since the early 2000s, Polish bikers have organized the Katyn International Motorcycle Rally, an annual event featuring bikers traveling from Poland to the Russian region of Smolensk to pay tribute to the Polish officers killed by Soviet security services in 1940. The goodwill tour, taking place between August and September, features a drive from Poland through Lithuania, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. On their way, bikers visit sanatoria for sick children, carry out a walking tour through the Russian city of Smolensk, and meet up with fellow bikers from other countries. The Night Wolves and other Russian motorcycle clubs have yet to comment on how the hullaballoo raised over their Roads to Victory tour will affect relations with their Polish counterparts.

    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.

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    Tags:
    motorcycle tour, motorcycle rally, rally, motorcycle, protest, protests, Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, Germany, Poland, Russia
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