Make-up memes mock Russian bikers

Members of the Russian Night Wolves Motorcycle Club ride to the Mount of Glory memorial complex in the village of Sloboda, some 25 kilometres east of Minsk, to honour Soviet soldiers of WWII, on 26 April 2015. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Russia's Night Wolves bikers, known for their support of President Vladimir Putin, are subject to US sanctions for their involvement in the Ukraine conflict

The macho image of a controversial Russian motorcycle club took a hit online after one of the bikers mentioned their "make-up bags" in a TV interview.

They've been called Putin's "Hells' Angels", known for their support of the Russian president. Ten bikers from Russia's Night Wolves motorcycle club were turned back when they tried to enter Poland from Belarus earlier this week. They were aiming to get to Berlin to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two later this month.

But they set themselves up for online mockery when one of the bikers said in an interview with a Russian TV channel that the border guards had conducted a long and exhausting search of "every sock and make-up bag, all personal items".

Night Wolves member Andrey Bobrovskiy was quite possibly using biker slang for a storage compartment when he uttered the Russian word "kosmetichka" - in English, it means "make-up bag". But whatever he meant, Ukrainians quickly jumped on the comments and soon make-up memes were all over Twitter, Facebook and the Russian-language social network Vkontakte.

"This case was especially open to ridicule because the Night Wolves have a very masculine, pro-Putin image," says Mariya Kondrachuk from BBC Monitoring. Ukrainians poked fun at the contrast between the tough bikers and the very feminine word "kosmetichka", she says.

Ukrainians are particularly angry with the club because they are not just motorcycle aficionados; they've actually been the subject of US sanctions for their alleged involvement in the conflict in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia last year. The American government also says the group has helped to recruit fighters for Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is still raging.

Image copyright Twitter/tatyana17112009
Image caption "Make-up bags are all for us! - Surgeon," says the caption on this photo. "Surgeon" is the nickname of Night Wolves leader Alexander Zaldostanov
Image copyright
Image caption "I need your bike and make-up bag," says this meme - which includes a shot from Terminator 2 - posted on Vkontakte.

Some Twitter users whose profiles say they are located in Russia also joined in the joking. One meme showed Night Wolves leader Alexander Zaldostanov on the cover of Glamour: "It appears that the Night Wolves have their own magazine":

Image copyright Twitter/Elshad_Babaev
Image copyright Twitter/Fake_MIDRF
Image caption "Grandfathers fought in 1945 so that in 2015 bikers could ride with make-up bags," says an account parodying the Russian Foreign Ministry.

In Poland, after the Wolves said they might try and cross the border individually, some people posted pictures of sheep - an apparent reference to the idiom "a wolf in sheep's clothing".

But there was some support for the group on Facebook as well. A few groups - albeit with only a few hundred members - welcomed the group to Poland and said that freedom of movement should not be restricted.

Image copyright Twitter/SpecGhost

Blog by Samiha Nettikkara

Additional reporting by Olga Bugorkova and Dmytro Zotsenko

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