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Pro-Putin Biker Group Visits Republika Srpska On 'Russian Balkans' Tour

Members of the Russian motorcycle club, the Night Wolves, in the Serbian town of Sid on March 20. They traveled to Bosnia-Herzegovina the following day.

Nearly two dozen members of the pro-Kremlin motorcycle group Night Wolves have visited Banja Luka, the administrative center of Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, as part of what they are calling a "Russian Balkans" tour.

Because of bad weather conditions, instead of riding in on motorcycles, the group rode in cars on March 21 to visit the site where the construction of a new Russian-Serbian center is planned.

Group members then visited Christ the Savior Church in the city center and lit candles. They were welcomed by a few dozen people before proceeding to Holy Trinity Church and laying flowers at a nearby statue of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II.

The group did not meet with Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik as expected, although Dodik, like the biker club members, is a strong admirer and supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Night Wolves club, known for promoting Russian nationalism as well as allegiance to the Kremlin, has been hit with sanctions from the West over its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier this month, Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities banned the leader of the group Aleksandar Zaldostanov, who calls himself "the Surgeon,” from entering the country as he was deemed a potential threat to Bosnia’s national security.

Also banned was Sasa Savic, a Serbian citizen who heads a Balkan branch of the Night Wolves.

Officials in Bosnia have alleged the tour is aimed at intimidating non-Serbs in the divided country, where a 1992-95 ethnic war killed more than 100,000 people.

The tour coincides with what Western intelligence officials say has been an increase in efforts by Moscow to expand its influence in the region.