Ten Russian bikers from Vladimir Putin’s Night Wolves bike gang have been turned back at the Polish border with Belarus.
The Night Wolves had planned to cross Poland on their way to Berlin to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 9.
The Polish government described their plans last week as “provocative”.
The Night Wolves back President Vladimir Putin’s Ukraine policy – something strongly opposed by Poland.
The bike gang is subject to US sanctions for alleged active involvement in Crimea – annexed by Russia from Ukraine last year – and for helping to recruit separatist fighters for Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s foreign ministry had already expressed “outrage” at Poland’s ban.
The border guards, who did not specify that the bikers were Night Wolves members, said the ten did not fulfill the conditions to enter and stay in Poland. Polish news agency PAP reported that the ten were members of the Night Wolves.
The bikers held in a Polish facility at Terespol after Belarus frontier guards let them pass.
On April 24, the Polish foreign ministry cited safety concerns, saying the bikers had informed the Polish authorities of their plans too late and had provided vague information.
However, Polish media reports suggested some 200 Night Wolves bikers had managed to cross into Poland from the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad after obtaining visas, though they were not part of the group heading from Moscow to Berlin.
However, some Polish bikers are reported to view the Night Wolves favorably, with one group offering to escort them on their trip through Poland.
On April 25, the Night Wolves stopped at the Khatyn memorial near Minsk in Belarus, to pay tribute to villagers massacred by Nazi troops.
The Night Wolves intend to cross several countries on a 3,720 mile trip following the path taken by the Red Army in World War Two, with the aim of arriving in Berlin in time to coincide with Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joined a biker gang on Monday and led them on motorcade at a festival in Novorossiysk, a Black Sea port.
Vladimir Putin, 58, was riding a three-wheeled Harley Davidson and looking very much at home in the latest of macho stunts that have punctuated his political career.
It is well known that Putin’s eccentric photos topless horse-riding and hunting have earned him the nickname “Alpha Dog” in U.S. diplomatic circles.
After riding around for a while, black-clad Vladimir Putin boarded a Soviet-era warship in the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, where the prime minister took part to a festival that mark the city’s liberation during the Second World War.
Vladimir Putin was riding a three wheeled Harley Davidson while he led the motorcade
During his speech at the festival, Putin called the bikers his “brothers”:
“I want to talk to you, brothers. It is cool that you do not forget the heroes of the past.
“Boys, girls you are great. Not only are you having fun while riding your bikes but you are also combining it with patriotic deeds.”
Vladimir Putin’s party, United Russia, intends to secure a 2/3 majority in December’s elections for the Duma lower house of parliament.
The 2/3 majority would give United Russia the power to change the constitution.
It seems campaigning began for real on Monday, after President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree setting the date for the poll as December 4.
The Russian elections from next December will also set the scene for a presidential poll in March 2012.
Nor prime minister Vladimir Putin or president Dmitry Medvedev have said who will run for the presidential race.
At Novorossiysk motorcade, Putin rode along “Night Wolves” biker club members with the hard-rock club anthem in the background.
“Night Wolves” club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed “Surgeon”, one of Vladimir Putin’s friends.
"Night Wolves" club leader is Alexander Zaldostanov, nicknamed "Surgeon", one of Vladimir Putin's friends
During his participation at the festival, Vladimir Putin was flanked by veterans of World War Two and the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.
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