“The motorcycle club whose members were at the vanguard of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, nicknamed ‘Putin’s Angels’ by the media, is on the road again.

Members of the Night Wolves were due in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serb-majority entity Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, on March 21 and were expected to hold a press conference in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, around a week later.

They have planned or taken provocative rides before — including a Victory Day trip to Berlin and a candlelighting at Katyn, where Josef Stalin is said to have ordered the execution of tens of thousands of Polish officers during World War II — and are targeted by U.S. and Canadian sanctions for their thuggish support of nonuniformed Russian forces during the takeover of Crimea in 2014.

The group’s agenda during its tour of what it calls the “Russian Balkans” remains unclear, and it is hard to know whether it somehow reflects Kremlin geopolitical goals or just a solid effort at trolling.

Atlantic Council senior fellow Dimitar Bechev recently argued that while Russia is increasingly active in the Western Balkans, its influence is not as great as generally believed.

Promoting his new book Rival Power: Russia In Southeast Europe at the London School of Economics, Bechev expressed concern that Western media were obsessed with the idea of Russia as a ‘partner-turned-enemy’ in the Balkans and the Middle East.

‘In reality, if Russia was increasingly present in the Balkan region, it was not always because it was imposing itself but because local powers and elites were engaging Russia to serve their own domestic agendas,’ Bechev said.” (RFE/RL)