Russian Motorcycle Club and Western Expansion?

in Russia, Kremlin, Putin, Night Wolves, Alexander Zaldostanov, Александр Залдастанов, NНочные Волки, Crimea, Slovakia, Ramzan Kadyrov, Spetsnaz motorcycle club

Originally a counter-culture movement, The Night Wolves (NНочные Волки:Nochnye Volki) are Russia’s oldest and largest official motorcycle club (MC) with origins dating back to the later years of the Soviet Union. 1 With over 5,000 members worldwide, the Night Wolves have charters in many countries and are especially present in former Soviet states. 2

The Russian social media platform hosts a profile for the MC’s founder, Alexander Zaldostanov (Александр Залдастанов), AKA The Surgeon, which claims club presence and operations in Russia, Crimea, Germany, and elsewhere. 3. Many of the photos and videos shared on Mr Zaldastanov look like something out of Sons of Anarchy Moscow edition: tough bikers, large packs of riders, and various propaganda concerts and videos with motorcycle sculptures, flamethrowers, and fireworks.

anchor text Figure 1: Alexander Zaldastanov profile

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However; the club’s operations seems to involve more than rides for motorcycle enthusiasts.


The Night Wolves have been busy enhancing their diplomatic role as Russian cultural emissaries in Eastern Europe.

In 2015, the President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, was made an honorary member and the head of the Chechen branch of The Night Wolves. 4

anchor text Figure 3: Diffeo recommends related entities and substantiating evidence

anchor text Figure 4: Chechen President becomes Leader of a Night Wolves Regional Branch

In 2018, the club was invited to a ceremony in Belarus at the Brest fortress, a symbol of Soviet heroism after WW2. 5 Over the last several years, The Night Wolves have continued to become closer to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, receiving hundreds of millions of rubles in funding while supporting pro-Russian militias in Crimea. 6

Kremlin Support

Aside from the club’s well discussed support to the Russian annexation of Crimea,
[^7] 8 The MC has also received funds from the Kremlin to conduct transnational motorcycle rides in the Balkans 9. If there were any remaining doubts about the MC’s connection with the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin has referred the Night Wolves as his “friends” and has even gone on rides with the founder. 10

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anchor text Figure 6: Diffeo recommends Twitter sources regarding Night Wolves

But the club has done much more than conduct rides across Russia and former soviet states. Club members and their affiliates have, at times, been on the favoring end of land procurement deals. The Balaklava Mining company lost a land lease that was given to the Night Wolves by the Russian government in order to build a “patriotic extreme sports complex”. The city protested and naturally Mr. Zaldostanov challenged the city council speaker “to a duel”…11

anchor text Figure 7: Evidence bundle regarding Night Wolves lease to build sports complex

What’s curious, is that this is not the first time an affiliate of the Russian Night Wolves MC has been on the benefiting end of a surreptitious land deal that has taken away mining rights from a company.

In 2012, the Yenisei Industrial Company (EPC) likely was surreptitiously stripped of their mining rights to one of the largest coking coal basins in Russia. Under pressure from the government, the owner, Sergei Pugachev, consented to the sale of EPC, but only after Ruslan Baisarov, a well-known friend of honorary Night Wolves member and Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov, was forced under terms of the Kremlin-sanctioned deal to be made chairman of the board. Shortly after this, the company was stripped of its lease that was then given to another company owned by Baisarov. 12

anchor text Figure 8: Diffeo substantiating a relationship on the knowledge board

anchor text Figure 9: Diffeo recommends an article on mining rights and Night Wolf affiliate

Western Expansion

In late July 2018, the Night Wolves began to occupy what appears to be a small military base in Slovakia, compete with old military vehicles. The club calls the base a WW2 museum, the Kremlin refers to the base as the club’s “European base” and Slovakia refers to the occupation as slightly more than less than troubling. 13.

Over the last several years, western Europe and the United States have endured sweeping waves of nationalism, in part spurred by humanitarian and refugee crises due to various conflicts in northern Africa,the Middle East, and Southwest Asia. While one may argue that the Night Wolves are a quasi paramilitary patriotic arm of the Kremlin, there may also be a formal relationship between the Kremlin, the club, and physical land acquisition. While the MC and other companies owned by Mr. Zaldastanov have been sanctioned by the US Department of Treasury 13 this relationship between the MC and Kremlin expansion warrants further research, especially if they plan to gain a foothold in the American MC arena.

In Florida, the Spetsnaz motorcycle club was founded in 2015 by Svyatoslav Mangushev, a former Russian intelligence officer-turned-real estate investor in at least one Trump property, and other Russian expatriates, including a decorated Florida Sheriff's deputy. In 2014, the sheriff's deputy penned a letter to the Night Wolves, asking to be recognized and included as a branch of the Night Wolves. 14

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