Georgian border guards denied entry to members of a controversial pro-Kremlin biker group, who reportedly intended to attend the May 9 ceremony in Tbilisi, marking the 72nd anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe.
“We have stated it clearly that we would not have allowed the organized groups of the so called Night Wolves in Georgia. The border officers repeatedly denied entry to [several] organized groups of the Night Wolves. As a result of the work of the Interior Ministry, the Night Wolves group failed to conduct the [planned] large-scale performance in Tbilisi,” the Ministry told Civil.ge on May 9.
“We will not welcome the future visits of these groups in Georgia,” the statement also said.
The Ministry, however, added that from two to three bikers “who had no signs of [belonging to] the Night Wolves group” managed to enter Georgia as tourists. The Ministry was, most probably, referring to the bikers who appeared in Vake Park in Tbilisi on May 9, where the memorial of the Unknown Soldier is located and where every year Georgian WWII veterans gather to commemorate the WWII anniversary.
The “Night Wolves” are widely known for staging events and activities in support of the Kremlin’s policies, including those beyond the Russian border.
“The Russian-Georgian Youth Union,” a pro-Kremlin group in Georgia said on April 27 that they were closely working with the “Night Wolves” to celebrate the May 9 – Georgian public holiday marking the end of World War II in Europe – in Tbilisi. The organization also said they were expecting the “Night Wolves” President Alexander Zaldostanov to be among the visitors.
The news sparked outcry in the local public; many citizens expressed protest on Facebook and petition websites, with demands that the government prohibit entry of the “Night Wolves” to the country.
The Georgian Interior Ministry produced a gradually evolving response to the situation.
On April 28, Deputy Interior Minister Shalva Khutsishvili said that the issue of the “Night Wolves” planned visit would be studied by the Ministry’s special commission which would define whether the events planned by the biker club in Georgia went against the country’s interests.
Later, Khutsishvili told IPN news agency that the Ministry considered the “Night Wolves”visit to Georgia on 9 May as “undesirable.” The Deputy Minister said that the events planned by the biker club in Georgia were “unacceptable for a large part of [the Georgian] society,” and did not “correspond to the spirit of the May 9 celebrations.”
On May 2, several Russian motorcyclists reported being denied entry into Georgia at the Russian-Georgian border, saying that about 50 other people they knew about encountered the same problem. The bikers said they believed they will not be able to enter Georgia until after May 9, and noted that the entry denials automatically applied to all motorcycle riders.
Answering the journalists’ query on the matter on May 3, Georgian Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili replied: “don’t worry, they are not coming.”
On May 2, the ‘Night Wolves’ press secretary Anna Komarova said that the club might not go to Georgia after all. According to Komarova, Alexander Zaldostanov wanted to go to Georgia, but promised a visit to the so called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ leader Alexander Zakharchenko, and also needed to be in Saint Petersburg on May 6.