Russian Bikers’ Balkans Tour Plans Criticized by Security Minister

Members of a Russian motorcycle club said they will tour Bosnia and Serbia this month. Some twenty members of the Night Wolves want to “research the cultural influence of the Russian Empire in the Balkans”, the group posted on the internet.

The Night Wolves said its members will tour Bosnia and Serbia for a week or so, covering around 2,000 kilometers, starting on March 19 in Belgrade, Serbia. The group will visit Banja Luka, Bosnia on March 21 and meet with the president of Republika Srpska entity, Milorad Dodik.

In December 2014, the United States Treasury Department blacklisted the Night Wolves because its members served in an armed group in Ukraine.

The announced tour was criticized by Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektić for being part of what he said is a campaign to intimidate moderate Bosnian Serbs and non-Serbs in Bosnia ahead of elections in October. The Night Wolves is “no typical motorcycle club. They carry strong political messages,” Mektić said, citing reports that the Night Wolves plan to open an office in Banja Luka and monitor the elections.

Authorities in Republika Srpska “want to give them legitimacy and use them in the election process,” Mektić said.

In contrast to the U.S. sanctions, Dodik gave the Night Wolves an award on January 9 for their “emphasis on the affirmation of human rights, tolerance among people, the rule of law and freedom, and the strengthening of friendly relations between the Russian Federation and (Republika Srpska).”

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