21st Mar 2023


Russia's 'Night Wolves' biker gang to face EU ban

  • Biker boss Alexander Zaldostanov (left of centre) in Russia-occupied Crimea in 2019 (Photo: CC BY 4.0)
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Pro-Kremlin biker gang the Night Wolves will no longer be able to ride around Europe under new Russia sanctions, which also strike at Sberbank and the mayor of Moscow.

Alexander Zaldostanov, the ageing gang leader, three associates, and the Moscow-registered biker club itself were all added to a draft EU blacklist discussed by ambassadors on Monday (18 July).

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  • Russian president Vladimir Putin (l) is a 'close associate', the EU said (Photo: Kremlin.ru)

The 69-year old was cited for "actively supporting Russian state propaganda through publicly denying Ukraine's right to statehood and calling for the 'denazification' as well as the 'de-Ukrainisation' of the country", the document, seen by EUobserver, said.

One of Zaldostanov's associates, Josef Hambalek, is a Slovak national who is "president of the Europe chapter" of the gang.

And Slovakia will have to freeze his assets and stop Hambalek from crossing into other EU states if the ban is agreed later this week.

The new blacklist targets 47 individuals and eight entities, as well as banning imports of Russian gold.

Most individuals are Russian military commanders and politicians or Ukrainian quislings in occupied territories.

But the list includes Sergey Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, two Russian actors accused of war propaganda (Sergey Bezrukov and Vladimir Mashkov), and a Russian tycoon (Rostech chairman Sergei Chemezov).

It also includes a few relatives of previously-sanctioned Russian oligarchs accused of trying to hide money.

Deripaska moves

In one example, Oleg Deripaska (blacklisted in April) transferred properties in France, Washington DC, and in the exclusive ski-resort of Lech in Austria to his cousin Pavel Ezoubov, the EU document said — but Ezoubov is now also facing an asset-freeze and visa-ban.

The new EU list freezes the European assets of Sberbank — Russia's largest lender.

It bans shipping and arms firms and nationalist groups such as Russia's 'Young Army' youth association and the Russkiy Mir Foundation.

In economic measures, the EU is preparing "to prohibit the direct or indirect import, purchase or transfer of gold, which constitutes Russia's most significant export after energy".

It is also tweaking its previous measures to make clear shipping firms bringing food from Russia to starving markets will not be penalised.

The EU is planning to introduce derogations to "the asset freeze and the prohibition to make funds and economic resources available to designated banks" to "avoid disruptions in the payments channels for agricultural products".

The EU "is committed to avoiding all measures which might lead to food insecurity around the globe" and none of its sanctions cover "trade in agricultural and food products, including wheat and fertilisers, between third countries and Russia," its sanctions bill said.

The same goes for medical and pharmaceutical products, it added.

But Europe is also tightening up sanctions implementation.

EU states will have to report to the European Commission which assets they have discovered and frozen six weeks after a new individual or entity is listed, for instance.

The latest sanctions package is the seventh since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

The EU previously banned Russian oil and coal, blacklisted most of its banks, and designated hundreds of people including Russian president Vladimir Putin and his family.

The new gold ban falls far short of earlier talk of an EU ban on Russian gas and Gazprombank, the Russian bank which handles gas payments, remains open for business, however.

The latest blacklist also contains few big fish after Hungary recently vetoed the designation of Russia's top priest and war-cheerleader patriarch Kirill.

The Night Wolves used to ride to events in Europe via Poland, causing outrage along the way and occasionally facing local bans.

It has European chapters in Bulgaria and the Western Balkans as well as Slovakia.

Its boss, Zaldostanov, was called a "close associate" of Putin in the EU files.

Zaldostanov also took part in propaganda pageants in Russia-occupied Crimea in 2014 which depicted the West as satanic forces raping Kyiv.

'Symbolic' Putin indictment gets some EU backing

Several EU foreign ministers welcomed the International Criminal Court's decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin, but it is unlikely to influence negotiations about a special tribunal on the crime of agression.

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