Europe

German court overturns ban of Russian pro-Putin bikers

Supporters of the Night Wolves carry Russian flags on their motorbikes as they drive past the watch towers of the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau Image copyright AP
Image caption Supporters of the Night Wolves rode near the former Dachau concentration camp in Germany

A Berlin court has ruled that bikers said to be from the Russian nationalist Night Wolves group can enter Germany to commemorate the defeat of the Nazis 70 years ago, overturning a previous ban.

A group of bikers intended to ride from Moscow to Berlin, but Poland barred entry at the border with Belarus.

Germany's federal police then also refused entry over security fears.

The pro-Kremlin group is subject to US sanctions for alleged active involvement in Crimea.

It is accused of helping to recruit separatist fighters for Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Night Wolves leader Aleksandr Zaldostanov had told Russian media Germany's decision to refuse entry was a "political decision".

Before the bikers arrived at the Polish border, more than 10,000 Poles had taken to Facebook to protest against the Night Wolves entering the country.

Image caption It is unclear how many of the bikers that left Moscow on 25 April will complete the journey to Berlin on Saturday

The group backs Russian President Vladimir Putin's policy of support for separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine in their armed conflict with the Ukrainian government - something strongly opposed by Poland.

The Polish government described their plans as "provocative".

On Wednesday, a Berlin court ruled there was not enough evidence they were a threat to public order, domestic security or international relations.

Of the dozens of bikers that left Moscow on 25 April, mainly on Harley-Davidsons, it is unclear how many have found their way to Germany and what route they have taken.

They had planned to cross Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, before reaching Berlin on a 6,000km (3,720 mile) trip following the path taken by the Red Army in World War Two.

  • Bikers wearing Night Wolves insignia have been pictured near Minsk in Belarus, Prague, Czech Republic and Vienna, Austria
  • German media reports say the Russian bikers granted entry earlier by the Berlin court are two Russians who obtained their Schengen visas - allowing them to travel within countries in the EU border-free zone - in Italy
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The bikers were let through by Belarusian officials but were stopped by Polish guards

The group's aim had been to arrive in the German capital in time to coincide with Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on Saturday.

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