Putin fetes Russian unity with 'biker brothers'
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday described leather-clad bikers as brothers and boasted of the "indivisible Russian nation" after roaring into a biking rally on a Harley Davidson.
The black-clad Putin led a column of bikers, their lights blazing into the night sky, who drove into a mass biking rally held on a former Soviet warship in the Black Sea port city of Novorossiisk.
Putin, an avowed fan of bikes, appeared to be riding the same massive three-wheeled Lehman trike conversion motorbike he rode to a similar meeting of the bikers in Ukraine last year.
Cheered by the biking faithful, Putin immediately took to the stage upon arrival and delivered a demagogic speech which managed to combine patriotism, historical memory and the motorcycle, state television pictures showed.
"I want to tell you, brothers, it's really great that you have not forgotten the heroism of the past," he told the crowd.
Recalling that Novorossiisk had been freed from Fascist occupation 68 years ago, he added: "These pages of history are in a striking way linked with the motorcycle because it was easiest to take children away from firing by motorbike.
"This historical memory is the cement which makes people of different peoples, ethnic groups and religions into one indivisible Russian nation, and creates a great Russia!," he said.
He said the defenders of Novorossiisk had a great slogan which was "relevant today for bikers and for Russia... Only movement forwards!"
The bike provides an ideal vehicle for Putin's trademark hardman antics which are becoming ever more familiar in Russia as he seeks to convince Russians he remains their strongman ahead of elections.
Russia is to hold presidential elections in March with many commentators expecting that Putin will seek to return to the Kremlin.
The massive rally was organised by a Russian biking group by the name of "The Night Wolves" and Putin now appears to have become firm friends with their leader Alexander Zaldostanov, who goes by the name of "the surgeon".
The state ITAR-TASS news agency described the rally as an "international bike show... with a patriotic direction."
© 2011 AFP