The infamous Russian nationalist biker gang, the Night Wolves, known as Putin’s bikers due to their close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, is leading a tour of Russian-related sites through Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Georgia, France and Spain.
The group, led by Alexander “the Surgeon” Zaldostanov, are close to the Russian government, and have ridden with Putin. They have allowed recruiters for the Russian Navy at their bike shows and celebrated Russia’s annexation of Crimea with a dramatic, nationalist spectacle in Sevastopol.
Two of the Night Wolves will begin the journey next week through Europe, cross into Africa via Morocco and travel to South Africa by road, visiting “monuments connected to the history of Russia” and parishes of the Orthodox Church, a spokesman for the group Yevgeny Strogov told RIA Novosti at a press conference on Wednesday night.
The Night Wolves will be joined by other bikers, one of whom will also be an Orthodox priest. The tour will be called “Around the World By The Meridian.”
“The expedition will start on October 25 from the bike center in Moscow, the guys will go to Europe, and then descend on the western part of Africa to South Africa, the pass through the eastern part of the continent, go up and finish on April 12, on the Day of Cosmonautics in Murmansk (in Russia),” said Strogov.
The pair of riders will leave a trail of Christian Orthodox crucifixes in the sites they visit and will carry an Orthodox icon to South Africa.
According to a rough estimation of the trail the group will follow uploaded on the Night Wolves’ official site the bikers will cross through several controversial places on their way back from South Africa including Georgia, whose relations with Russia have been rocky since the brief armed conflict between the two countries in 2008. They will also pass through Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Russia is currently bombing targets in Syria held by various militant factions opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iraq and Iran, but opposed by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan are part of separate air operations against extremist groups in Syria.
The group may also face difficulties during the first stages of their trip as they have faced some difficulties in their previous efforts of crossing Europe.
The group previously attempted to retrace the Red Army’s victory march to Berlin ahead of Russia’s celebration of allied victory in the Second World War after European leaders rejected Putin’s invites to commemorate the event in Moscow.
The majority of the bikers were stopped on the Polish and Lithuanian borders with Belarus and those remaining had to travel in cars due to the public outcry against their presence, German and Austrian media reported.
The group also announced they would tour western Ukraine earlier this year to restore Soviet monuments, damaged by the region’s widespread protests against Russian influence on Kiev but the tour is yet to take place.