A Kremlin-funded Russian biker gang, known as the Night Wolves, is set to stage a dramatic recreation of World War II in a performance complete with lasers, rock music and motorcycle stunts, to take place Friday in Crimea, the Guardian reported. The Night Wolves have been an important part of the Kremlin's campaign to increase popular support for the Russian government, and the biker group condemns dissent while aggressively supporting President Vladimir Putin.
“The West is seeking to destroy Russia,” said the gang's leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, better known as "the Surgeon," in an interview with the Washington Times in June. “But we will defend our homeland from anyone who wishes it harm.”
The Night Wolves has been on the Kremlin payroll since 2009 after Putin approached Zaldostanov to promote Russian values through his group's shows and rallies. The group reportedly received $1 million from the government over the past 18 months.
Each year the group puts on pro-government shows around Russia. The show set to take place Friday night in Crimea, recreating the Soviet victory over German army during World War II, has taken on special significance following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. A YouTube video promoting the performance appears to show Hitler, fading into shots of Orthodox priests and clips from the Night Wolves' previous shows. A T-34 tank from the war museum in Volgograd was borrowed for use in the stunts.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, inciting outcry and sanctions from many Western nations, including the U.S. and most of Europe. Several of the anti-Russian Ukrainians who fought to keep Crimea were openly neo-Nazi, and pro-Russian authorities have called many anti-Russian Ukrainians "fascists" or "Nazis" ever since.
The Night Wolves have become active in garnering support for the annexation of Crimea.