The detained bikers have reportedly been beaten and might face espionage charges. Above, a biker on his motorcycle in Moscow.
Four Russian bikers have been detained in Iraq, possibly
on suspicion of spying, prompting a surge of concern at home.
The Russians — who were riding their motorcycles through
Iraq on a Central Asia-Middle East road trip — were stopped as they approached
Baghdad on Sunday and apparently taken into custody at an Iraqi military base,
news reports said Thursday.
The bikers have been severely beaten, accused of espionage
and visa forgery, and threatened with the death penalty, said Alexander Orlov,
a member of the Moscow-based motorcycle club RAMCC, who said he is in continual
contact with the men and a Russian diplomat in Iraq.
"They are among the most experienced motorcycle
tourists in Russia," he said, speaking to RIA-Novosti. "They have
crossed the whole world. … The speculation that they forged the visas is mere
The Russian Embassy in Baghdad declined to provide details
about the detentions, saying it did not want to hamper the bikers' release.
"Our ambassador has discussed this at a meeting with [Iraq's]
leadership," said embassy spokesman Sergei Cherkasov, Interfax reported.
But in a separate interview with NTV television he said
the embassy's efforts had been complicated by Iraqi authorities' distraction
with international talks on Iran's disputed nuclear program, which are being
held in Baghdad this week.
The detained bikers — Oleg Kapkayev, Alexander
Vardanyants, Oleg Maximov and Maxim Ignatyev — had been taking a trip across
Central Asia, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Earlier they were briefly detained in the
Iraqi city of Kirkuk but released after receiving assistance from the Russian
Embassy, RIA-Novosti said.
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