Tuesday 2, May
Night Wolves are coming: Putin-supporting motorcycle gang heads for Berlin
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the event has become more controversial
Never heard of the Night Wolves? Founded in 1989, this Russian motorcycle club has made headlines in recent years for their open backing of Vladimir Putin. Back in 2011, Putin joined the gang for a parade in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk, and since then they have made a number of political interventions including blockading roads into Sevastopol during the Russian annexation of Crimea. Now they’re headed for Berlin.
As dramatic as it sounds, their appearance in the city is actually something that happens every year. May 9 is celebrated as Victory Day in many countries in the former Soviet Union, marking the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazis. Berlin’s Soviet War memorial in Treptower Park has been a site of celebration and commemoration on that day for years. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, the event has become more controversial – and the appearance of the the Night Wolves certainly adds to the impression that this party is aimed less at remembering the fall of Nazism than it is a celebration of Russian militarism.
The group held a rally in Moscow as they set off on their journey, which will take them first to Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) before continuing to Donetsk and arriving in Berlin for the commemoration on May 9. Previous years have seen European countries like Poland and Germany attempt to deny the bikers entry by cancelling their visas, but right now it’s unclear if any similar moves will be attempted this year.