Commenting on the issue of allowing the pro-Kremlin biker group Night Wolves to enter Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, leader of Democratic Movement – United Georgia party, made the following statement:
Nino Burjanadze, Democratic Movement – United Georgia: "The Night Wolves were allowed to enter Berlin and Warsaw; why should not they be allowed to enter Georgia?! What is special about Georgia that allows it to do what nobody has done?”
Asaval-Dasavali, May 8-14
Nino Burjanadze’s statement is false, because the Night Wolves faced problems in Poland and Germany; in addition, the United States and Canada imposed sanctions against the bikers because of their involvement in criminal activities in Eastern Ukraine.
In 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin-backed biker club Night Wolves planned to ride through several countries, including Poland, on a trip to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over the Nazis, ending in Berlin with marking the day of victory on 9 May. The Polish Foreign Ministry denied them entry to the country, but several members of the club still managed to enter Poland. The announced ride sparked Polish protest. An active campaign against the Night Wolves dubbed "No to the Russian bandits’ ride through Poland” was unleashed in social networks. About 10 000 supporters joined the campaign. Over 8 000 persons signed the petition against the bikers’ entry to Poland.
In 2016, Poland again refused to grant entry permits to the members of the Night Wolves citing threats to public order and security. In 2017, only those members of the club, who were EU citizens, managed to cross the Polish border.
In 2015, the Night Wolves were refused entry to Germany by the Federal Police. But later a court in Berlin ruled that the bikers could enter the country. The court explained that there was not enough evidence they were a threat to public order, domestic security or international relations.
The United States and Canada
In 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury imposed economic sanctions against the Night Wolves, its leader, Aleksandr Zaldostanov, Ukrainian separatists, Russian individuals and entities. The U.S. Department of the Treasury noted in its press release that the club members were responsible for, or complicit in, actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine. According to the same press release, this biker group also participated in the storming of the gas distribution station in Strikolkove and the storming of the Ukrainian Naval Forces Headquarters in Sevastopol. The U.S. Department of the Treasury also said that the Night Wolves have been closely connected to the Russian special services, have helped to recruit separatist fighters for Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine.
In 2015, Canada put the Night Wolves on the list of those Russian entities against whom the country imposed economic sanctions related to the Crimea region of Ukraine.
About the biker club Night Wolves
The Night Wolves motorcycle club was established in 1989 and today it is the largest biker group in Russia. The club adheres to ultra-nationalist ideology; it has close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who even participated in the ride through the Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, Vladimir Putin awarded Aleksandr Zaldostanov with the Order of Honor for his "active work in patriotic upbringing of the youth.” During Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Night Wolves actively supported pro-Russian separatists, blockaded the roads and even took part in the hostilities.
In 2015, the biker club received USD 190 000 presidential grant to fund a patriotic youth club in Crimea annexed by Russia.
In April 2017, the Night Wolves announced about the plans to attend the May 9 events in Georgia marking the 72nd anniversary of the end of WWII. But Georgian border guards denied entry to the club members. The Russian bikers were invited by the Russian-Georgian Youth Union. The news sparked public protest in social networks. Over 3 800 persons signed the online petition demanding the government not to allow the club members to enter Georgia.
Nino Burjanadze – Democratic Movement United Georgia
Nino Burjanadze, former parliamentary chairperson, distanced from then ruling party, United National Movement, in April, shortly before the 2008 parliamentary elections. The United Democratic Movement was established on March 19, 2008. Burjanadze’s bloc became a qualified subject during the 2014 local elections. But it failed to clear a 5% threshold during the parliamentary elections in 2016. Nino Burjanadze is the second Georgian politician, after ex-PM Zurab Noghaideli, who met Vladimir Putin in 2010, two years after the August 2008 war with Russia. Burjanadze’s party called for a ‘bloc-free status’ as part of its campaign ahead of the October 2016 parliamentary elections, demanding to add a relevant clause to the constitution. According to the 2016 monitoring conducted by MDF, the party was widely known for its homophobic statements. According to MDF’s media monitoring report Anti-Western Propaganda, a bloc-free status and the idea of neutrality as the counterweight to NATO were mostly promoted by Nino Burjanadze’s political party.
Prepared by Dali Kurdadze
Carricature by Sopo Kirtadze