Russian Navy to Use Night Wolves Bikers as Recruitment Draw in Crimea

lt;pgt;Russia#039;s nationalistic motorbike club, the quot;Night Wolves,quot; often referred to as Putin#039;s bikers, are being used to recruit Crimeans to the Black Sea Fleet, according to a report on state news agency lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;Itar-Tasslt;/agt;. A military recruitment booth will be set up during their next annual bike show in Crimea—the 20th such event—which also features pyrotechnics, musical performances and motorbike tricks and attracts thousands of;/pgt; lt;pgt;The Night Wolves recently made headlines in Europe when their members attempted to organise a lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;bike ride from Moscow to Berlinlt;/agt;, passing through former Communist republics in homage to the Red Army#039;s march to the German capital during the Second World;/pgt; lt;pgt;The event was planned to coincide with celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in May. Scores of the group were turned away at the Polish and Lithuanian border and Deutsche Welle reported that less than a week before May Day, only a handful of bikers were spotted in Austria, travelling by car so as to appear inconspicuous. They have also promised to ride to western Ukraine to lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;repair Soviet monumentslt;/agt;.lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;While this is yet to materialise, the biker group led by Alexander quot;the Surgeonquot; Zaldostanov will help in recruiting Russians to the navy, as Black Sea Fleet admiral Alexander Vitko told Itar-Tass the group#039;s upcoming event in Sevastopol will deliberately coincide with the recruitment;/pgt; lt;pgt;quot;Between 17 and 19 of July we began the initiative #039;Military Service by Contract in the Black Sea Fleet - Your Choice#039; in three cities: Kerch, Simferopol and Sevastopol,quot; Vitko said. quot;We will not be wrapping up this programme and we plan to place kit, arms, information booths and a recruitment booth at the time and place of the Night Wolves#039;s famous bike show which will go ahead in Sevastopol on August 21.quot;lt;/pgt; lt;pgt;Vitko said that this year the Black Sea Fleet had already recruited 2,000 contract servicemen this;/pgt; lt;pgt;The Night Wolves have ridden with Russian President Vladimir Putin and have a strong relationship with the Russian government as they were given a 10-year lease of 267 hectares of land in Russian-occupied Crimea in May at lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;0.1% of the pricelt;/agt;. They were given the huge discount with the promise that they would build a quot;patriotic centre for extreme sportsquot;;/pgt; lt;pgt;They have organised an annual bike show lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;every summer in Crimealt;/agt; over the last 19 years and in 2013 it was broadcast on national television in Russia as it was organised to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the battle of Sevastopol against the Nazis. Last year#039;s event attended by thousands of people celebrated the annexation of Crimea with a large theatrical performance of dark cloaked figures, symbolising Ukraine#039;s pro-European movement protesters, violently assaulting a giant globe with fire. Zaldostanov recited a long speech in rhyming couplets, accusing Ukraine of being quot;lackeys to Europequot; from atop a smoking tower and was played out by a Russian industrial rock band, performing a song, blaming Ukraine for the;/pgt; lt;pgt;All members of the Night Wolves group have strongly endorsed the annexation of Crimea by Russia and have been put in the sanctions list by the EU and the US for allegedly actively assisting in the annexation and supporting separatist troops in the east, according to the lt;a href=quot;; rel=quot;nofollowquot;gt;US Treasurylt;/agt;.lt;/pgt;