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HARLEY RETREATS FROM RUSSIA

On 1 March, Harley-Davidson announced a suspension of its Russian business activities and shipments of bikes to Russia, following that country’s invasion of Ukraine in the previous week.

Harley did not immediately respond to a request from the Reuters news agency for additional details on the suspension or the size of its operations in Russia.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been photographed in the saddle of Harley-Davidson motorcycles on several occasions. Most notoriously, he rode a Harley Lehman-kitted trike conversion during his star guest appearance at an “international biker convention” in Novorossiysk near Sevastopol on Ukraine’s subsequently-annexed Crimea peninsula in 2011.  

This event had been organised by what is effectively Mad Vlad’s personal ultra-nationalist outlaw biker club, the 7000-strong Night Wolves — most of whom are somewhat toxic Harley aficianados. 

Funded by the Kremlin to the tune of several hundred million roubles per year and referred to by Putin as “friends”, the Night Wolves went on to play a violent role in Crimea’s annexation by Russia in 2014 and some members have since fought alongside pro-Russian militants in Ukraine’s break-away Donbas region. They have been described by US commentators as “a paramilitary and propaganda arm of the Putin regime”.

Night Wolves founder Alexander Zaldostanov and the club as whole have been the subject of US and Canadian government sanctions since 2014. Night Wolves members aiming to attend biker rallies and rock concerts in Germany and Poland have been denied entry at their borders or had visas cancelled.     

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