Pro-Putin bikers launch rally bound for Berlin

The motorcade aims to complete the rally in the German capital Berlin by May 9

By AFP

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Russian bikers prepare to start a ride in Moscow on Saturday in the ‘Night Wolves’ motorcycle club. — AFP
Russian bikers prepare to start a ride in Moscow on Saturday in the ‘Night Wolves’ motorcycle club. — AFP

Published: Sat 29 Apr 2023, 11:07 PM

Hundreds of Kremlin-loyal bikers under the banner of the Night Wolves motorcycle club took to the streets of Moscow on Saturday at the start of a "patriotic" rally which they said would end in Germany.

The motorcade headed by club founder and leader Alexander Zaldastanov, known as "The Surgeon", aims to complete the rally in the German capital Berlin by May 9.

Several participants at the rally waved Russian and Soviet flags. Some had the letter "Z" fixed to their bikes -- a symbol of Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine launched in February 2022.

Before the start of the rally, Zaldastanov told AFP that "despite all the difficulties Russia is facing, our aspiration for victory is eternal". Everything had to be done to "bring the victory" of the Russian army in Ukraine closer, he added.

Dubbed "the roads of victory", the rally adopted the traditional slogan of the Russian offensive in Ukraine: "We do not let down our own".

According to organisers, the motorcade plans to reach the city of Volgograd by May 1. Formerly known as Stalingrad, the long, drawn-out battle for control of the city between Soviet troops and the Nazi invaders, marked a turning point in WWII towards victory for the Soviet Union and its allies.

The bikers will continue their journey to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, the scene of heavy fighting, where they will distribute humanitarian aid to civilians and Russian soldiers.

"The inhabitants of Donbas and us, we are the same people," 34-year-old Artiom told AFP before embarking on the journey.

On Saturday, after a tour through the capital, the bikers attended a concert of "patriotic" rock bands.

Zaldastanov, who has described himself as a "friend" of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is under Western sanctions for his support for the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 and the Russian offensive in Ukraine.

In May 2015, he was banned from entering Poland, where he wanted to organise "a motorcycle victory rally" across Europe. The ban had provoked the ire of Russian diplomacy.


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