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Sevastopol's Olympic-Sized Take On Ukraine: Bikers, Ballet, And Swastikas

During the Sevastopol show on August 8, giant hands of Western and American "puppeteers" appeared to be pulling strings during "Maidan" unrest in Ukraine.
During the Sevastopol show on August 8, giant hands of Western and American "puppeteers" appeared to be pulling strings during "Maidan" unrest in Ukraine.

What's a biker show without interpretive dance?

In what can perhaps be seen as a darker continuation of the generally well-reviewed Sochi Olympic opening ceremony in February, Russia's most famed biker gang provided its own take on the conflict in Ukraine.

The show, broadcast live on August 9 from annexed Crimea in front of an estimated 100,000 people and on Russian state TV, used a choreographed mix of nationalist rock, pyrotechnics, Nazi and Illuminati imagery, and interpretive dance to portray Ukraine as a state overrun by fascists.

The Sevastopol show begins with children playing merrily on a playground until they flee under the sounds of sirens and the flashing of red lights.

Enter Aleksandr Zaldostanov, the nationalist leader of Russia's "Night Wolves" biker gang and a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who gives his interpretation of the fall of the Soviet Union.

"Enemies who hated us, killed the Soviet state, and took away its territory and its army," he says before repeating -- in an attempt at poetic cadence -- the official Russian version of the current Ukraine conflict.

"And now, the healing has begun. It is coming from Russian Sevastopol. We are celebrating our sacred victory at a time when fascism, like putrid, poisonous dough, has overfilled its Kyiv trough and begun to spread across Ukraine. Its tanks are now flattening Kramatorsk, its Grad missiles are destroying Luhansk, its APCs are pouring fire on Slovyansk, its helicopters are attacking the suburbs of Donetsk. The new battle against fascism is inevitable. Stalin's 11th strike is inevitable." (This is an apparent reference to 10 Soviet military victories in 1944.)

Darkness falls and the sound of U.S. President Barack Obama's voice echoes over the crowd: "I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story."

His voice is cut off, and then, over the next 25 minutes, this happens:

Under the towering figure of a symbol taken from the U.S. dollar bill that is commonly used by conspiracy theorists and with the voice of a Hitler speech ringing in the background, dancers in black rise from a white sheet and form a Swastika.

The men in black -- representative, apparently, of pro-Ukraine activists -- cause a map of Ukraine to bleed in the east and then set riot police on fire.

Moving fingers in the hands above appear to represent the strings being pulled by Western and American "puppeteers."

The "story" then moves to the war in the east between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists.

Tanks flying both the Ukrainian flag and the banner of the Ukrainian ultranationalist group Right Sector roll onto the stage to ominous music and the echo of bullets. Armed with blow torches, they appear to burn the surrounding stage indiscriminately. (Although the Right Sector's leader earned less than 1 percent of the vote in Ukraine's May presidential election, the group remains a favorite boogeyman of Moscow.)

But then the Ukrainians are set alight -- repelled by forces gloriously carrying the flag of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

Although Crimea was annexed in March before fighting broke out in the east, the Night Wolves' version of a historical reenactment closes with Russia "reclaiming" the Ukrainian peninsula.

As men dressed as Russian sailors bang on drums, a band repeats its main refrain: "The city's come back -- Sevastopol will remain Russian."

Here's a video of the full performance:

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    Glenn Kates

    Glenn Kates is the former managing editor for digital at Current Time, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. He now reports for RFE/RL as a freelancer. 

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