The Night Wolves are Russia’s largest motorbike club, with over 5,000 members.
Fiercely patriotic, they believe that “wherever the Night Wolves are, that should be considered Russia”.
On Saturday, the Night Wolves organised a mass ride from the northeast of Ukraine through the Russian speaking eastern regions to the Crimea.
They wanted to hand out supplies to pro-Russian militia forces there.
A member of the club’s local chapter said: “We don’t want what happened in Kiev to happen here. Nazis and bandits have seized power there. And if we have to fight, we’ll fight with everything we can get our hands on.”
The Night Wolves formed during Perestroika in1980s Russia as a counter-Soviet group idolising rock music and motorbikes.
Even today, they claim to reject all laws, written and unwritten, and all political or religious movements.
Vladimir Putin, then Russia’s Prime Minister, with Alexander Zaldostanov, the leader of the Night Wolves, in 2010 (AFP/GETTY)
So it’s odd that Russian President Vladimir Putin has struck up an enduring friendship with the group’s leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, a man nicknamed ‘The Surgeon’.
Indeed, Mr Putin’s links to the group are considerable enough that he was accidentally put on a blacklist by Finnish authorities, banning him from entering the country.
Finnish authorities later said it had been a big mistake and they had ordered the banning order to be removed.
Mr Putin first met the bike group in 2009 – a stunt that his detractors viewed as another of his macho photo opportunities.
But Mr Putin’s links to the group seem sincere.
Mr Putin was once four hours late for a meeting with former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych because he had been touring the Crimea with Mr Zaldostanov.
Last year, Mr Putin awarded Mr Zaldostanov with an Order of Honour for his “active work in the patriotic upbringing of the young”.
In return, Mr Zaldostanov has praised the President for his attempts to “restore Russia’s greatness”.
In 2011 a leather-clad Putin led a column of Night Wolves into the Russian city of Novorossiysk for a bike show.
The group’s rallies and rides have become an increasing show of Russian soft power in Eastern Europe.
Following feminist group Pussy Riot’s ‘punk prayer’ in a Moscow cathedral, the Night Wolves offered to guard Orthodox cathedrals against any further ‘hooliganism’.
The group’s political links have also led to clashes with rival motorbike groups.
One of their members was killed last November in a shoot-out with the Three Roads club.
The Three Roads’s leader, Yebgeny Vorobyev, said the shoot-out had begun over his group’s decision to end ties with the wolves in favour of a U.S. based club called the Bandidos.
He added that the Wolves had become too politicised.
Police harassment has hit an all time low in the town of Queensland, Australia. It has finally become evident to motorcycle enthusiast from all over. This after a viral video was posted of a biker being obviously harassed by multiple police for wearing his clubs vest. To say this is upsetting would be a major understatement. One of our fans sent a link to this video a couple days back, and it got the guys in an uproar. We watched the whole video, and shared the same looks of disgust for the entire clip. Harley Davidson rider James Evans, who has been stopped a startling 21 times since buying his fatboy motorcycle in 2012, finally filmed his latest incident. Queensland Police Media have responded to Jamie’s video saying riders and the public have “nothing to fear” from the increased police presence. Jamie is a member of the Misfits Social Motorcycle Club and wears a “Misfits” vest when he rides. “I’ve been advised by the police on many occasions to take the vest off, but I will always wear my vest. I’m proud of it,” he says. However, the harassment has now got to the stage where he says he can’t take his nine-year-old son for a ride. “How do you explain to a nine-year-old that police aren’t bad but I ride a bike so they see me as being bad. He’d lose any respect he has for the police,” he says. Despite the grilling by several police, Jamie filmed the whole incident and managed to keep his sense of humor
Queensland’s police say the states growing infamy as a no-go zone for bikers has gone global, killing off visits by overseas bikers and reducing local clubs to ‘furtive’ meetings in homes or over the internet.
They claim the local heat on bikers has ruined a key networking opportunity for Gold Coast members of the Mongols with US clubmates, and is also warding off trips by foreign Hells Angels and Bandidos.
A police source said overseas bikers were wary of the prospect of “too much scrutiny at customs and they’re living in fear they’re going to get here and are not going to able to get home”.
Deputy Police Commissioner Brett Pointing said the reported combined feedback among bikers, interstate and overseas, was “keep away from Queensland”.
“Crooks will always compare the rewards with the risk,” he said. “In modern-day Queensland, the stakes have just gone up, the risks are up.”
A recent surge in police referrals to the Crime and Misconduct Commission raises the prospect of a line of bikers losing entire fortunes under draconian drug-trafficking confiscation laws.
Half the state’s 41 clubhouses which police say were safe houses for guns, drugs, cash, and criminal conspiracies, are abandoned.
The rest have been mothballed ahead of a High Court challenge to the laws by the United Motorcycle Council of Queensland.
Detective Superintendent Mick Niland said police knew some clubs, including bikers who claimed to have cut ties with clubs, were still meeting “and we believe criminal enterprise is at work”.
“What we know is that these criminal associations are still going and we are targeting them and we are confident that successful results will occur over time.”
UMCQ spokesman Mick Kosenko said police put mistaken emphasis on clubhouses as places to organise crime and his chapter of the Rebels had given up meetings altogether.
“The main purpose of a meeting is to go for ride. What’s the point of having a meeting? It’s actually more important to get together and have a beer,” he said.
Former Gold Coast cop- turned-criminologist Terry Goldsworthy said he doubted the new anti-biker laws had done much more than make “a superficial disruption”.
Mr Pointing said traditional police methods “hadn’t been working” in the face of a “boom time for gangs” from 2007-2012, feeding on the growing rewards of the amphetamines market.
Now freed of expensive tasks such as escorting mass rides, police face a new-found test in investigating clubs driven deeper underground.
Detective Superintendent Jim Keogh said groups were “not going to turn their back on a billion-dollar industry – not without a fight”.
One of B.C.’s wealthiest Hells Angels chapters has sold the Burnaby clubhouse it has operated for the past seven years, The Vancouver Sun has learned.
The Nomads chapter of the notorious biker gang has met regularly at the renovated building at 3910 Grant St. since late 2006.
But on Feb. 13, the company that owned the building — Grant Street Holdings Ltd. — sold it for $2.175 million, according to land title and B.C. Assessment documents obtained by The Sun.
Corporate records list the Grant Street directors as Francesco (Frank) Amoretto, Bob Green and Gino Zumpano — all well-known members of the Nomads. A fourth Nomad, Tony Pires, had been a company director until last August, the records show.
The purchaser of the building is a numbered company with two directors that lists its address as next door to the former Hells Angels property. The property was assessed this year at $1,098,000.
Sgt. Lindsey Houghton, who speaks for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said while the anti-gang agency is aware of the sale, he doesn’t know the reason behind it.
“We are well aware of it. We are certainly not privy as to the exact reasons why, but even though the physical location now seems to be gone — at least the one in Burnaby there — the chapter still does exist,” Houghton said. “The people still exist as a Nomads chapter.”
Houghton explained that while some Hells Angels chapters are geographic in nature, the elite Nomads chapter doesn’t have any specific boundaries in B.C.
“That is sort of the meaning of the name. They are transient and not tied to one place,” he said. “Nomads chapters don’t always have clubhouses. These guys (in Burnaby) did for a long time.”
Houghton said like all Hells Angels chapters, the Nomads hold a regular weekly meeting they call “church.”
“It will be interesting to see if they pop up in a physical location again or what they’ll do,” he said.
The Hells Angels own clubhouses in Coquitlam, Mission, Haney, Langley, East Vancouver, Kelowna and Nanaimo. But the B.C. civil forfeiture office is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to order the properties in East Van, Kelowna and Nanaimo forfeited as suspected proceeds of crime.
The Hells Angels are fighting back and have filed a suit against the government, claiming the Civil Forfeiture Act violates their Charter rights and should be scrapped.
A motorcycling husband and wife are confident they have broken an endurance record for their round the world trip.
Simon and Monika Newbound took three years and a day to complete their overland circumnavigation from west to east on their motorbikes.
Their journey, a distance of 168,000 kilometres, extended from Ireland to North America, visiting 54 countries.
They expect the confirmation of their success from Guinness within two weeks.
Mr Newbound, 40, from Abergele said the trip was a chance to combine the chance to challenge world records, travel the world and raise money for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
He said they had been welcomed all over the world, made friends and experienced new cultures and cuisine.
- In Kazakhstan they were served horse testicles and sheep’s eyes at a tradtional banquet.
- In Rome, in September 2004, they were blessed along with another 10,000 people by Pope John Paul II.
- They drove through every state in the United States and every province in Canada.
- They visited the Great Wall of China, as well as Cuba and the Middle East.
For 30-year-old Mrs Newbound, one of the highlights of the epic trip was their visit to Mongolia.
Originally from the Czech Republic, she speaks Russian and was able to communicate with the older generation in Mongolia.
Before the journey, Monika had no experience of long-distance biking and had passed her test after only four days of lessons.
“Travelling on the good European road prepared me – but driving in Iran was difficult because the biggest bikes there were 200cc and they weren’t prepare to deal with the fast BMW bikes we were riding on the roads.
“They were missing us by small distances.
According to Mr Newbound, having been married for 10 years the journey strengthened their relationship.
“We’ve got a great respect for each other, at the beginning of the trip we didn’t know what each other’s roles would be.
“But as we went along Monika would maybe put the tent up while I would start making the food – we know each other’s strength and weaknesses.”
Meanwhile having arrived home they rode to the BMF Show at Peterborough on May 21, are planning the next leg of their journey. and over the summer are trying to secure sponsors.
The couple who are currently staying in Abergele with Simon’s family, intend to break another world record.
Mrs Newbound is to visit, in one continuous journey more than 102 countries – she has currently visited 54 countries.
Both also intended to visit all seven continents in one continuous journey.
Being back in north Wales the pair are catching up with family, friends and all the news they’ve missed recently.
“It’s great to be able to understand what people are saying – it’s only two days ago I found out that Tony Blair had been re-elected!”
Britain is bracing itself for a wave of deadly biker gang turf wars which could start rolling across Europe.
Police have warned that violent gangs from America, Canada and Australia – some armed with assault rifles and grenades – have arrived on the continent.
It has raised fears that there will be a surge in violence as the “Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs” battle it out for supremacy and control of organised crime markets.
The UK has been put on alert by Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, which says the arrival of the Comancheros and Rebels from Australia, Rock Machine from Canada plus the Mongols and the Vagos from the US has sparked tensions with established biker gangs.
The OMCGs are said to be recruiting far-right militants, football hooligans and members from ex-military circles as they look for control of drug, gun and human trafficking routes.
But many of the gang members are not thought to be proper bikers – some do not even own a bike or have a driving licence.
The Outlaws, who have 30 chapters in England and Wales, were behind the murder of Hells Angel Gerry Tobin, 35.
He was shot in the back of the head while riding his Harley -Davidson on the M40 in 2007.
Europol, who have told British police to monitor UK gangs closely, fear a return of the Great Nordic Biker Wars of the 90s that left 12 dead and nearly 100 wounded.
Large swathes of Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway saw rival gangs battle over “drug turfs”.
It began with a car park shoot-out that quickly escalated when an anti-tank rocket was fired at a Hells Angels clubhouse.
The war raged with shootings, street assassinations and bombings.
It ended after an innocent passer-by was killed by a car bomb.
A Europol spokesman said: “Establishing a chapter on the turf of another gang is interpreted as an act of provocation. This is likely to result in violent confrontations which could include the use of rifles like Kalashnikovs and explosive devices such as grenades.
“Given the significant expansion of gangs in Europe, we have informed law enforcement partners of the risk of clashes.”
The fight riders
There are various biker gangs linked to crime.
Most famous are the Hells Angels – started in California in 1948.
The US Department of Justice says it has links to drug dealing, extortion and prostitution.
The Outlaws were formed in the US in 1935.
Members were jailed for a 30-strong brawl at Birmingham Airport in 2008.
The Australian-based Comancheros – named after a John Wayne film – have been involved in deadly feuds with Hells Angels.
Also in Australia, the Rebels demand members ride Harley-Davidsons. Police raids found drugs, guns and a crocodile.
Rock Machine started in Quebec and is active in the Canadian drug trade.
California’s Mongols attract ex-soldiers.
Another US gang is Vagos – whose members wear green.