‘Putin’s Angels’ Kremlin’s anti-Ukraine biker gang targeted by EU over pro-war stance

By | 25.07.2022
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A militant anti-Ukrainian motorcycle club nicknamed “Putin’s Angels” has been included in a fresh round of sanctions issued by the European Union in response to Russia’s war on its neighbour. The Nightwolves has more than 7,000 members and is run by a friend and vehement supporter of Putin.

Nightwolves members have staged rallies and protests in support of Moscow’s ongoing attacks on Ukraine, and some are said to have fought alongside pro-Russian militants in the ongoing conflict.

The group’s leader, 51-year-old Alexander Zaldostanov, said he was “not surprised” by the sanctions and that they “have no meaning”.

Brussels’ sanctions could stop the Nightwolves’ propagandizing road trips across Europe, where they have 44 other chapters but Zaldostanov said members would convene in Russia if they were barred from doing so elsewhere.

He told the Financial Times in a phone call: “If we will no longer be able to make the trips, then our friends, our brothers will come here instead.”

Zaldostanov assumed leadership of the club — which started as a combination of rock music fans and motorcycle enthusiasts and has since evolved into a patriotic activist group — in 1989, and quickly found himself in favour with the Russian President.

In 2019, he was awarded the Crimea Medal of Freedom by Putin. In August of that year, he embarked on a highly publicised motorcycle ride with the leader to show support for him shortly before the election that would launch his fourth presidential term.

Also on the list of sanctioned individuals is Andrey Bobrowskyi, described as “a member of the nationalist motorcycle club Nightwolves MC and leader of the Roads for Victory branch of Nightwolves MC”.

The EU claims Bobrowskyi “organised several Nightwolves rallies in Berlin, Poland and Russia” in support of Putin’s war in Ukraine.

The latest set of sanctions is made up of 48 individuals and nine entities, including Russia’s biggest lender, SberBank, and two international actors – Vladimir Mashkov, who had appeared in Behind Enemy Lines and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Sergey Bezrukov.

The package was praised by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who said the “reinforced, prolonged EU sanctions against the Kremlin” send “a strong signal to Moscow: we will keep the pressure high for as long as it takes”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, was critical of the bloc’s move.

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He said in a late-night address: “This is not enough and I am telling my partners this frankly.

“Russia must feel a much higher price for the war to force it to seek peace.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, admitted last week that leaders had been increasingly concerned the sanctions were self-harming.

He said: “There is a big debate about are the sanctions effective, are the sanctions affecting us more than Russia…

“Some European leaders have been saying that the sanctions were an error, was a mistake; well, I don’t think it was a mistake.”

In a decision that is believed to have upset Ukraine, Brussels adjusted sanctions on Russian oil companies so to limit the risks to global energy security.

The tweak means Russian state-owned companies Rosneft and Gazprom will be able to ship oil to third countries.

The bloc said in a statement: “With a view to avoid any potential negative consequences for food and energy security around the world, the EU decided to extend the exemption from the prohibition to engage in transactions with certain state-owned entities as regards transactions for agricultural products and the transport of oil to third countries.”

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