The Montenegrin branch of the Russian ‘Night Wolves’ bikers club on Thursday called on the authorities to prohibit a planned pro-Ukrainian gathering in Podgorica, warning that it could provoke incidents.

Pro-Russian Bikers in Montenegro Want pro-Ukrainian Rally Stopped

A member of the motorcycle club ‘Night Wolves’ at a wreath-laying ceremony for Soviet soldiers in WWII in Dresden, Germany. Photo: EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER

The Montenegrin branch of the Russian “Night Wolves” bikers club on Thursday called on the authorities to consider banning a pro-Ukrainian march announced for Saturday, as a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine amid fears of a Russian invasion.

The pro-Kremlin biker club called on the Montenegrin Ministry of Interior to prohibit the gathering in Podgorica, warning it could provoke incidents.

“We don’t want the transfer of war hysteria from the Russian-Ukrainian border to Montenegro, which has already been politically divided. War-mongering rhetoric and those who use it do not deserve our hospitality,” their letter reads.

“The organisers [of the march] are provoking religious and national intolerance, and possible conflicts on that basis,” they added.

Led by Alexander Zaldostanov “The Surgeon”, the Night Wolves were established as a club of rock music and motorcycle fans back in the 1980s.

They have a strong relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who calls them “friends” and often appears at their nationalist-themed rallies, riding a Harley Davidson.

The group gained notoriety after participating in Russia’s annexation of the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, patrolling the streets of the Crimean city of Sevastopol.

In October 2014, the bikers visited Montenegro on a motorcycle pilgrimage called “Russian Balkan,” which was promoted on the official website of the Russian embassy in Podgorica.

Their branch in Montenegro includes members from towns across the country, operating under the motto “Pray to God and stick to Russia”.

On Thursday, ahead of the planned rally, the Russian embassy in Podgorica called on the authorities to strengthen security around the embassy building.

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reminded the Montenegrin authorities that Ukraine’s Consul in the country, Mykhailo Shmatov, on Facebook had used the hashtag #RussiaMustBeDestroyed, though that was later turned to #UkrainaiansWillResist.

On February 16, Ukraine’s Consul told BIRN that similar marches were being organized by the Ukrainian diaspora worldwide, adding that the rally in Podgorica has no provocative intentions.

Shmatov said his country never interfered in Montenegrin internal affairs or its relations with Russia, stressing that Ukraine considered Montenegro a reliable partner which supports its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On February 9, the Russian, US and Ukrainian embassies in Montenegro traded accusations over the crisis in Ukraine, after the US embassy called on Montenegro to stand with the Kyiv government.

The spat escalated after the US ambassador, Judy Rising Reinke, had an article published in the local media on February 3 in which she urged American and Montenegrin citizens to stand with Ukraine against “Russian aggression” to ensure a free and stable Europe. On February 8, the Russian embassy responded by accusing the US ambassador of promoting NATO expansionism and anti-Russian propaganda in Montenegro.

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