Night Wolves' motor rally to Europe kicks off in Moscow

Russian bikers from the Night Wolves club have set out on a Moscow-Berlin motor rally despite having been denied entry to Poland.

The rally departed from the bikers' club in Nizhny Mnevniki on Saturday, an Interfax correspondent reported.

A day earlier the club chief, Alexander "Surgeon" Zaldostanov, told Interfax that the Night Wolves were not going to abandon their motor rally plans. "We will still do everything tomorrow the way we planned. If we are going to refuse from our rally, why not refuse then from everything altogether. Let us refuse from May 9, let us refuse from our graves, our history and our past. Let us then refuse from everything, clap our hands and pray to the dollar sign," Zaldostanov said.

The bikers are grateful to their Polish counterparts for their support, he said. "Some 30,000 Polish bikers adopted a resolution in our support and are ready to provide us with assistance," the "Surgeon" said.

The Night Wolves leader also said his passport was still at the embassy. If he gets a Schengen visa, he will catch up with the column of motorcyclists heading to Europe, following which he will leave his motorbike on the eve of May 3 and fly back to Moscow, Zaldostanov said.

On April 24 it emerged that the Polish authorities had formally notified the Russian Embassy in Warsaw about banning entry for participants of the Moscow-Berlin motor rally organized by the Night Wolvers bike club. "The Embassy has received a note on this matter," Russian Embassy spokeswoman Valeria Perzhinskaya told Interfax on Friday.

In it, "the Polish side formally notified about having denied entry to Russian motorcyclists, citing the ostensible delay in the provision of information about the visit and its organization," she said.

The bikers' club was planning to perform the Moscow-Berlin motor rally, timed to coincide with the Victory Day, on April 25-May 9. The planned itinerary was to cross Belarus, Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. According to Alexander Zaldastanov, the club's president, 15 bikers were to take part in the rally.

In Poland, these plans were met with protests. Poland's Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz called the planned rally a "provocation." "There is a political game involved in this affair," the premier said.

According to the media, a group was set up on Facebook, in which Poles expressed their fears about the Russian bikers' plans. According to the users, the motor rally across the EU countries can be described as a warning to European nations or even as the beginning of a Russian aggression, the BBC reported. Polish activists have asked the country's authorities not to allow the motor rally and ban the Night Wolves from crossing into Poland.

The latest polls showed that more than half of Poles do not want to see the Night Wolves in their country, a Polish radio station said.

There were also opponents of the Night Wolves' motor rally in Belarus. Representatives from the youth wing of the Belarusian opposition "For Freedom" movement launched a campaign on social media, aimed against the motor rally.

For their part, German security agencies said that the bikers will not be allowed to stage a motor rally to Berlin's Treptower Park, where a Soviet soldiers' memorial is located, on May 9. Berlin police had received no application for the event to be organized in the German capital. But even if one is filed in the coming days, the organizers will receive a negative reply.

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