In Vienna, nationalist Russian bikers have laid a wreath at a monument to Soviet soldiers who brought down the Nazis. The Night Wolves are commemorating the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany 70 years ago in World War Two.
The Putinist "Night Wolves" biker gang has come a milestone closer on a 6,000-kilometer (3,600-mile) "victory tour" from Moscow to Berlin to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's World War Two victory over Nazi Germany.
Joined by Russia's ambassador to Austria, two Night Wolves laid a wreath at a monument to the Red Army erected by the Soviets in Vienna. But the Night Wolves may have trouble continuing their journey to Berlin.
Germany's Foreign Ministry has announced that guards will revoke the Night Wolves' visas at the border if members of the group, blacklisted in the United States for its participation in Russia's annexation of Crimea, try to enter.
"The border guards are aware that there might be people with visas that are valid but have actually been annulled," ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer said earlier in the week. "There is a legal administrative procedure in which visas already issued can be annulled, so it would be possible to deny entry."
About 50 Night Wolves had planned to ride from Moscow to Berlin to mark the Allied victory. That idea drew criticism from countries along the route, particularly Poland, where the prime minister called the Night Wolves' pilgrimage a provocation. The country ultimately denied them entry last week, reflecting strains over Russia's alleged role in Ukraine's civil war.
Not 'legitimate aims'
On April 27, Schäfer said that German officials could not allow the Night Wolves to take part in a motorcycle parade through Berlin on May 9, the day Russia celebrates the end of the war. Kremlin officials have asked for clarification from Germany's Foreign Ministry. The Night Wolves ride with the full support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"There's nothing illegal about it by itself," Schäfer said Monday of the potential rally. "We deeply value freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in Germany. But we've decided that some of the leaders in the Night Wolves are not pursuing legitimate aims with these plans." Schäfer said the Night Wolves' support for Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula last year "was proof of that."
On Tuesday, Lithuanian border guards said they had denied entry to eight Russian bikers, including at least one Night Wolf. The biker pack has, however, passed through the Slovak capital, Bratislava. Many in Central and Eastern Europe regard the Red Army's defeat of the Nazis as a prelude to over 40 years of occupation by the Soviet Union.
mkg/bk (AFP, dpa, AP)