15:40 GMT17 April 2021
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    The Russian motorcycle club Night Wolves has come into limelight in Finland, as journalist Juha Portaankorva of Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle has shot his second documentary about the Russian bikers.

    In 1993, Juha Portaankorva made his first documentary about the motorcycle club Night Wolves, led by Alexander Zaldostanov also known by his nickname "Surgeon". Then, the bikers' movement was gaining momentum during the transition from the USSR to modern-day Russia. Nowadays, Night Wolves have become a political force, campaigning for Russia on the international arena. In Finland, they have been referred to as Vladimir Putin's motorcycle club, as Russian President has many times participated in the club's activities.

    Today, Night Wolves generally turn down interview requests from "hostile" Western media, but for Juha Portaankorva an exception was made for old times' sake. "Surgeon" met the Finnish journalist as an old friend.

    After 20 years, Zaldostanov told Portaankorva most of his dreams have come true. "We have become more numerous and more powerful," Zaldostanov said.

    "The American way of life… Yeah, this is not our way, you know. Ours is different, and I'm very glad I have been able to show it. Russian motorcyclists must have a spirit of their own, not America's," Zaldostanov said. "Night Wolves have not illicitly copied the Western motorcycle culture, but have created our own Russian style."

    Unlike any stereotypical motorcycle gang, Night Wolves moved away from themes like drugs and organized crime and became involved in political activism.

    In his film, Portaankorva stressed the Night Wolves' active pro-Russian stance in the Ukrainian conflict. "Surgeon" himself was born in what now is Ukraine and spent his childhood in Sevastopol. Like many people of his generation, he considers Russia and Ukraine a united homeland.

    "Surgeon" would also like the Finns and the Russians to have a more open relationship. He also expressed hope that the two countries would cherish their common history in the future.

    "I would love Finland to stay a good neighbor of Russia. I would love it if a small part of Russia lived on in Finland. I would love the Finns to trust Russia more than America," Zaldostanov said as quoted by Yle.

    The motorcycle club Night Wolves was founded near the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1989 and is estimated to have a few thousand members. The club's leader Alexander Zaldostanov is originally a dentist by profession, hence the nickname "Surgeon." Zaldostanov is a personal friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was awarded the Medal "For the Return of Crimea" for his actions in "helping Crimeans to self-determine."

    Of yet, Zaldostanov has been personally sanctioned by several governments, including the United States and Canada. In April 2015, he and the Night Wolves were refused entry to the European Union at the Polish border.

    Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, Crimea, Ukraine, Russia, Finland
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