Putin's bikers to build patriotic motocross park in Crimea

The Russian government has leased 267 hectares of Crimean real estate to the Night Wolves, the notoriously nationalistic motorcycle gang, who will pay just 0.1% of the normal rental price for the land. The group are reportedly planning on building a "patriotic centre for extreme sports" on the annexed peninsula.

The Night Wolves, who are strong supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin, have courted controversy on numerous occasions. Most recently the group, led by Alexander "the Surgeon" Zaldostanov, attempted to retrace the route of the Red Army in 1945, when they marched from Moscow to Berlin and ended with the Soviet Union taking the German capital.

The plan prompted protests in several countries including Poland, Lithuania and Germany, and eventually only a handful of bikers were allowed to enter the EU, the others having been turned back at various borders. Despite their relatively unsuccessful trip Zaldostanov then sparked further controversy by claiming his group would soon plan a similar trip to western Ukraine to repair old-Soviet monuments.

The group has now been given the right to rent 267 hectares (660 acres) in Crimea's Balaklava region for 10 years, with the lease being offered at significant cut price according to a decree signed by the local government of Sevastopol, dated to yesterday evening.

The text of the document indicates that the land is to be used for the construction of a "multi-purpose, patriotic centre for extreme sports" near Sevastopol and also highlights that the total amount of land rented by the group would be worth 1.4 billion roubles (€25 million).

However the Night Wolves will end up paying a much lower price than that as they are considered a non-profit social organisation, eligible for financial backing from the government, based on their contribution to Russian society.

In return for their apparent work "to popularise a healthy lifestyle, improving the moral well being of citizens, providing physical and patriotic education" the group will be granted a huge price cut by the Crimean local authorities, who have determined that Night Wolves only need to pay 0.1% of the normal valuation rate for the land they are renting, meaning that they will pay just 1.4 million roubles (€25,081).

Although founded in 1989 as a biker club, in 1995 the group was registered as a non-profit organisation, meaning that it is eligible for governmental financial backing for any public activities deemed of service to Russian society.

In August 2014 the Night Wolves were charged with organising Sevastopol's bike show, which was broadcast on national television and contained a wide range of heavy handed political statements, including comparing Ukraine's pro-European protesters and Western leaders to Nazis.

Kremlin-critic and corruption blogger Alexei Navalny recently reported the Night Wolves had been subject to direct funding from the Russian state budget after he had researched the public records of several ministries. Navalny estimated that the group had received 56 million roubles (€1 million) over the last year and a half, largely for anti-Western public performances and ultra-nationalist events.

Navalny then posted an early black and white photo of a young Zaldostanov, dressed in biker garb with the US flag around his neck. Navalny explained the photo had been taken during the Night Wolves leader's "pre-patriotic" or "pre-state subsidy" period.