BREST, Belarus (AP) — The leader of a Russian nationalist motorcycle club whose members were refused entry into Poland said Tuesday they haven't abandoned their plans to ride to Berlin to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany 70 years ago.
Ten members of the Night Wolves who aimed to ride through Poland and other countries en route to Berlin were turned back Monday at the Poland-Belarus border. Poland last week denied entry for the group, saying their plan was a provocation.
The Night Wolves are closely allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin and are vehement supporters of Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Club leader Alexander Zaldostanov told reporters in the Belarus border city of Brest that the riders would try other routes to complete the ride, but he didn't give any details.
The Red Army's grinding offensive against the Nazis is a matter of enormous national pride and emotions are especially high this year, the 70th anniversary of Germany's defeat. Poland has allowed other Russian groups to make pilgrimages to memorials to the Soviet dead, including a rally of about 200 bikers from the Kaliningrad region on Saturday.
However, the Night Wolves' truculent demeanor and ties with Putin alarmed many Poles already unsettled by Russia's backing of separatist rebels in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday accused Poland of "blaspheming the feats of those who saved Poland and the world from fascism" by denying entry to the Night Wolves.
"It's the cheap circus of provincial theater," Zaldostanov said.