Ten Russian bikers reach German border ahead of WWII rally
Ten pro-Kremlin Russian bikers, part of a larger group on a controversial World War II victory ride through Europe, reached the German border late Sunday, the Bavarian authorities said.
Having been turned back at the Polish and Lithuanian borders the members of the Night Wolves, a fiercely nationalistic motorcycle club backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, still hope to ride into the German capital Berlin on Saturday to celebrate the Soviet Union's role in the victory over Nazi Germany.
The ten bikers, the first of the Night Wolves to reach Germany, left Moscow on April 25 and crossed into the southern Bavarian town of Bad Reichenhall from Austria, a local police spokesman told the DPA news agency.
Ahead of the rally in Berlin, they plan on Monday to visit the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorated its liberation on Sunday, Night Wolves spokesman Alexander Shapovalov was quoted as saying.
The bikers had planned to ride 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) through Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and Germany before ending their trip in Berlin. But they began seeking new routes after being refused entry by the Polish border guard.
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz has described the rally as a "provocation".
Russia's foreign ministry said it was "indignant" and accused Warsaw of lying about the real reasons it was barring the bikers.
The Russian bikers insist their journey is not politically motivated, with the main goal to pay respects to those killed on the World War II battlefields.
Members of the Night Wolves rode down en masse to Ukraine's Crimea peninsula just after it was annexed by Russia in March 2014 and members have also fought with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The biker group started up in 1989 just before the fall of the Soviet Union and has around 5,000 members across the former USSR.
© 2015 AFP