Finland’s border authorities are bracing themselves for the possible attempted entry into the country of a Russian nationalist biker gang which has links to President Putin.
The Russian news agency Ria Novosti says ten members of the “Night Wolves”, a group subject to US sanctions over alleged involvement in Russia’s annexation of Crimea, may now try and pass through Finland, after having been refused entry to Poland on Monday.
The Night Wolves have aroused widespread attention across European media this week, as they attempt to travel across Europe to Berlin, following the route of the Red Army during World War Two. The group plans to arrive in the German capital by the 9 of May, when Moscow celebrates Victory Day.
Lieutenant Colonel Jaakko Ritola from the Finnish border guard told Yle that the only information they have so far received regarding the group has come through media reports.
”Of course we are following the situation with interest, particularly how other border authorities in other Schengen countries have responded to this issue,” Ritola said.
He would not speculate on whether the bikers - who were turned away by Polish officials reportedly on the grounds of “safety concerns” – would be allowed entry to Finland if they arrive at the border.
But he said the riders would be subject to normal border checks.
”Every time a border check is made, this takes into account the full situation of that particular case, and therefore it’s not possible to say in advance who will be able to cross the border and who won’t,” Ritola said.
Simply possessing the right travel documents does not guarantee entry into a country. Border authorities also check Schengen-area registers and EU sanctions lists in order to reach a decision about whether an individual’s entry into the country would compromise security or public order.
Also on Tuesday the Interior Minister, Päivi Räsänen, told Yle that the Finnish border authority has requested more information from Polish officials about the basis of Monday's decision not to grant entry to the bikers.
In 2013 President Putin was placed on a Finnish criminal watch-list after he presented an award to the Night Wolves. The Russian president had previously posed with them and joined them for a motorcycle ride.
Finland's police chief subsequently apologised for the inclusion of President Putin's name on the list, and accepted that the listing was erroneous and without any legal basis.