Masked men with torches goose-stepped in the formation of a swastika as drummers spewed fake blood onto their instruments and pounded an ominous beat. Giant robotic hands featuring an American seal raised a burning outline of Ukraine over the marching neo-Nazis, who soon began throwing rocks and setting Berkut riot police officers on fire. Suddenly, armored personnel carriers bearing Ukrainian flags rolled out, firing AK-47s indiscriminately.
Such was the spectacle at an annual “bike show” held last August in Crimea, five months after its annexation by Russia. The production, organized by the Night Wolves, the country’s largest motorcycle club, stands as arguably the most vivid and surreal enactment of the Kremlin’s propagandist portrayal of Ukraine’s Euromaidan demonstrations, which led to a pro-Western government in Kiev that Russia has maligned as a “fascist junta.”
“Eternal lackeys of Europe, her spiritual slaves, you have perverted the history of your fathers and sold your ancestors’ graves,” declared Night Wolves leader Alexander “The Surgeon” Zaldostanov, the event’s creator and master-of-ceremonies, as he admonished Ukrainians in a low growl. “A foreign land is dearer to you than your motherland, and for that reason you’re destined to know only the will of your master, and to bow to him forever.”