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Putin visits Night Wolves base near Sevastopol

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July 12, 2012, 6:43 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Interfax-Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin
© AP

Sevastopol - Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with bikers at the Night Wolves base near Sevastopol during his working trip to Ukraine.

On his way from Sevastopol to Yalta for talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Putin made an unexpected stopover to say hello to his old-time buddies and their leader nicknamed "Surgeon."

It was not Putin's first visit to the Night Wolves camp, the long-established venue of bikers' annual gatherings and bike shows.

Putin had visited similar events in Novorossiysk and at other locations.

Putin and Surgeon greeted each other warmly. Surgeon invited the president to an upcoming bike show scheduled for July 20-21. "If you are unable to come, perhaps you will send a video address. The guys would appreciate it so much," he said. Putin promised.

This year's bike show is dedicated to the heroic history of Sevastopol. Surgeon said that local residents treated the Night Wolves nicely and asked them "not to betray Sevastopol."

"Don't betray Sevastopol," was Putin's reply. "But don't forget Novorossiysk," he added.

Next year, the Night Wolves are planning to stage a bike show in Volgograd to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, and in 2014 they will attend a congress of Russian, Ukrainian and Serb bikers in Serbia.

Up to 80,000 bikers visit the Sevastopol camp during the summer season, Surgeon said. "This is more than entertainment, this is people's diplomacy," he remarked.

Putin noticed that there were more girls at the camp. "The last time I was here, I liked how you, big and strong men as you all are, treated the girls - with great care and respect," he smiled.

The bikers gave him a vest sporting the club's emblem as a gift and asked him to pose for a group photo.

After that, Putin wished them success and drove off to Yalta.

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