This story appears in the December issue of VICE magazine.
The Night Wolves, a Russian nationalist motorcycle gang beloved by Vladimir Putin, may have launched Earth's first gang ephemera into space: their flag. Now suspended above the planet, the Night Wolves' banner flies in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), a zone presumably removed from petty Earth politics.
The Night Wolves and their leather-clad leader, the Surgeon (born Alexander Zaldostanov), are sanctioned against traveling to the United States, a large presence on the ISS, lending their flag stunt an air of irreverence. The gang is vocally anti-American and, with funding from the Kremlin, provides "security" for Russian officials. The Surgeon has garnered media attention before with statements like, "We have to burn out all the feminism and homosexuality from our Orthodox Christian country with hot steel." Still, Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, launched the flag with famous cosmonaut Sergey Volkov in September.
"The Night Wolves, as pro-Putin clowns, capitalized on their relations with Putin—the flag is just PR," said Pavel Luzin, a Russian space-industry expert at Perm State University. The motive for the motorcycle club's space conquest, he added, is "that it is supercool to show the middle finger to the West," adding that he's not sure whether the gang's territorial antics have attracted the West's notice at all.