Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Putin and the Night Wolves vs. Poland

Masha Gessen, NYT
MAY 10, 2016

The Night Wolves isn’t just any motorcycle club; it’s the motorcycle club that’s shaping Russia’s foreign policy.

Late last month, after Poland banned the Night Wolves from riding across the country, Moscow summoned the Polish ambassador to inform her that the Kremlin was interpreting the denial of entry as a hostile act that will have consequences for which Poland will bear sole responsibility.

An official note from the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Poland’s position was particularly egregious for two reasons: because it was an “insult to the memory of those who fell fighting against Nazism,” and because a couple of weeks earlier Russia had allowed Polish officials to enter the country to honor the site where Polish leaders had died in a 2010 plane crash.

Let me try to explain. The Night Wolves is a motorcycle club that has long had special ties to Vladimir V. Putin. The Russian president has repeatedly posed for photographs with club members and has given a medal to its leader — best known by his nickname, the Surgeon — who has campaigned for Mr. Putin. The Night Wolves is also widely known in Russia for its patriotic New Year’s parties for children. It is the semiofficial, macho, flamboyant, celebratory arm of the Russian government. The club has acknowledged receiving about a million dollars in federal funding over 18 months. The Surgeon has said that’s not enough.

(More here.)

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