Pro-Putin bikers turned away at Polish border

27th April 2015, Comments 0 comments

Ten pro-Kremlin bikers who had planned a controversial WWII victory ride through Europe were on Monday denied entry into Poland at the Belarusian border, Polish border guards said.

Russian bikers including the Night Wolves -- a fiercely nationalistic motorcycle club backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin -- had planned to cover 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) through Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria before ending their in Berlin to celebrate the Soviet Union's role in victory over Nazi Germany.

The 10 bikers arriving from Belarus did not meet the necessary criteria to be allowed entry into Poland, border guard spokesman Dariusz Sienicki told reporters at the Terespol border post.

He did not elaborate but said individuals could be denied entry notably for lacking identification, a visa or a stated reason for the trip. The bikers' entry requests would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, he added.

Dozens of Polish bikers, who were grateful to the Night Wolves for their hospitality during earlier rallies in Russia, had waited for them at the border Monday.

"The Polish authorities' decision is outrageous," Polish biker Wiktor Wegrzyn told AFP, adding that the Poles would ride to Berlin in place of the Night Wolves and leave flowers at war memorials along the way.

The planned rally had sparked anger in Poland, a strong supporter of Ukraine's pro-Western government and formerly under Moscow's thumb during the Soviet era.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz described the rally as a "provocation" and the foreign ministry last week refused entry to "an organised biker group that includes members of the Night Wolves".

Russia's foreign ministry said it was "indignant" and accused Warsaw of lying about the real reasons it was barring the bikers.

A German government source told AFP on Saturday that "entry has been refused to certain leaders of the Night Wolves and visas obtained on false pretences have been annulled".

The Russian bikers insist the rally was not politically motivated. "The main goal is to pay respects to those killed on WWII battlefields," rally organiser Andrei Bobrovsky told AFP.

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 USSR and has around 5,000 members across the former Soviet Union.

© 2015 AFP

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