Poland denies Russian motorbikers entry

29th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

Poland said Friday it had banned a group of Russian motorbikers from crossing its territory on their way to Berlin on concerns that some may belong to the infamous pro-Putin Night Wolves club.

The bikers want to cross central Europe on their way to the German capital to celebrate the 71st anniversary of World War II victory on May 9.

Poland's foreign ministry said it was necessary to "guarantee public order" in a statement on its website, after sending a diplomatic note saying the same to the Russian embassy in Warsaw on Thursday.

Last year, the Night Wolves were also banned from entering Poland amid tense relations between Moscow and Warsaw.

"After what they said, we may to some extent believe that it's a 'patriotic' trip," Polish Senate head Stanislaw Karczewski told the private news channel Polsat News on Friday.

"But on the other hand, the Russian side provokes us as well as Europe so we have to be careful," he added.

The Russian foreign ministry called the ban a "malevolent and cynical gesture," designed to "prevent a group of Russian citizens from paying a tribute to Soviet soldiers killed while liberating Europe from fascism."

"It is particularly outrageous because Russian authorities allowed Poland to organise a commemorative ceremony in Smolensk, Russia in April" at the site of the 2010 plane crash that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and a host of the country's high-ranking officials, the ministry added in a statement.

Russia has also summoned Poland's ambassador in Moscow and addressed a formal protest to her over the ban.

Established in 1989, shortly before the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Night Wolves comprise 5,000 members from across the territory of the former eastern empire.

The motorbikers have appeared in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in March 2014, as well as in the eastern Ukrainian separatist region of Lugansk, where several Night Wolves joined the pro-Russian rebel army.

© 2016 AFP

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