Cossacks to Be Deployed to Guard World Soccer Cup, Government Buildings and Borders of Russia

October 18, 2016
Cossacks. Photo by Arseny Pavlishak/TASS

LIVE UPDATES: Dmitry Rogozin, vice premier for defense and space, has ordered Cossacks to guard Russia’s borders along with the Federal Security Service, RT reports.

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Cossacks to Be Deployed to Guard World Soccer Cup, Government Buildings and Borders of Russia

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s vice premier for defense and space, has ordered Cossacks to guard Russia’s borders along with the Federal Security Service (FSB), reported, citing RT.
Rogozin, himself an avid user of Twitter, has been busy visiting Transdniester — the breakaway region of Moldova that still has a Russian military presence — and Russian defense plants, and so has not commented on the Cossacks’ directive.
According to the RT report, Cossack detachments will be deployed from the Ussuriysk and TransBaikal Cossack troops to the border with Japan and China, and from the Kuban Cossack troops to the border with Georgia, while other detachments will are being sent to the Kaliningrad Region bordering Poland and Lithuania.
Viktor Vodolatsky, a member of the Commission on International Affairs and Liaison with Public Organizations in the Presidential Council on Cossack Affairs, told RT that Rogozin had given instructions for the Cossacks to jointly patrol the border areas with the FSB, which is responsible for border control. A change will be made to FSB regulations to allow for the Cossack patrols, he explained.

Vodolatsky said Cossacks from the Don and Orenburg Cossack troops are already jointly patrolling the borders with Ukraine and Kazakhstan:

“About 3,000 Cossacks have been recruited for this. It is a type of experimental platform. The results of this experiment are proposed to extend to the whole length of the state border. These measures presuppose the allocation of lands where Cossacks will create their settlements, engage in farming and livestock breeding and simultaneously help defend the borders of our country. The entire Cossacks troops consist of about 860,000 people, and they are distributed practically throughout the entire territory of our country.”
He added that the guarding of the border by Cossacks has been included in a strategy for development of the Russian Cossack community through 2020.
The Cossacks have traditionally guarded Russia’s borders and since President Vladimir Putin came to power have increasingly taken a role in law-enforcement and have also shown up among Russian volunteers fighting in the Russia-backed forces in the Donbass. Some have been killed in battle, such as Evgeny Ponomarev (call sign “Dingo”) who was originally from Krasnodar Region and one of the Tersk Cossacks.
Today, Cossack groups receive funding from the Russian government and have been found to join the Anti-Maidan movement whose members have attacked liberal demonstrators.

Anton Tsvetkov, chair of the Commission on Security for the Civic Chamber said he supported the involvement of Cossacks, although he noted, “border guards must not be replaced by Cossacks, but they can be reinforced” with them.

“There are different kind of Cossacks. You have to distinguish the real Cossacks from the dressed-up ones. Only real Cossacks can be entrusted to guard the border. For example, registered Cossack communities have proven their professionalism, organizational ability and idealism. Cossacks are people who are prepared to serve the Fatherland not only for material compensation but for ideological and spiritual reasons.”
Cossack organizations outside of Russia would also call for distinguishing the “real” from the fake, as they have disassociated themselves from Cossack groups inside Russia who have committed human rights violations in attacking minorities and demonstrators and fighting in the Russia-backed forces in the Donbass.

Yevgeny Nikitin, the ataman or leader of the Rostov District Cossack Community said Cossacks would be happy to serve:

“From generation to generation it has been customary: a Cossack is a warrior who defends the borders of his Motherland. This is a special segment, a special stratum of people…There is a nation, whose representatives defend the Motherland well.”

The fact that the FSB itself had no comment, no formal announcement was made of the measure, and only Cossacks themselves are announcing it indicate that the program is indeed still in its experimental stages and may face some controversy even within the government.

But in the last year, a number of announcements have been made about the incorporation of the Cossacks into security structures of the Russian government. Last year, Cossacks were reported to fill the ranks of the druzhinniki, a voluntary auxiliary police organization of the Soviet era which has been revived by President Vladimir Putin.

On October 11, RT reported that a source in Rosgvardiya, the new National Guard created by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, referenced instructions from Rogozin to send Cossacks to guard the buildings of ministries, prosecutors’ offices, the Investigative Committee, and other “important government facilities.”

Andrei Polyakov, ataman of the Irbis Russian Orthodox Union of Cossacks, told RT, “not a single other political party in Russia has such an organizational network as the Cossacks have.” He said there may not be enough Interior Affairs officers to do the job. As Polyakov said:

“In each village, city, and settlement from Kaliningrad to Khabarovsk and Kamchatka, there exist our organizations — Cossack divisions headed by atamans. Only in the south of Russia alone, the Cossacks can deploy up to 100,000 fighters at arms. And that is only three subjects of our country — Krasnodar Territory, Stavropol Territory and Rostov Region. It’s much larger on the scale of all of Russia.”
He added that there was even a spetsnaz brigade of Cossacks serving in the Defense Ministry.

Sergei Grinin, chair of the civic organization Civil Security, has doubts about the plans for involving the Cossacks.

“Defense of the federal buildings should be done by professionals, which means the police and FSO,” he said. The Federal Protection Service [FSO] guards the top leaders of Russia and the Kremlin grounds and other residences of the leadership. 

Col. Yevgeny Chernousov (retired) says it is possible Cossacks were being brought in because of a shortage of policemen. Putin laid off numerous policemen in reforms in the last two years.

“Officers of the Interior Ministry have to be paid more money that the government doesn’t have. Therefore they decided to recruit Cossacks for performing these functions, in order to have a tool of preserving budget funds.”

He said putting Cossacks in these jobs could improve their image.

“Cossacks could perform the functions that druzhinniki [auxiliary police] perform: guard parks, preserves, and stop various outrages…The drafting of this law is likely simply a populist gesture toward the Cossacks whom are wanted as allies and not opponents…Unfortunately a significant part of the population consider Cossacks to be dress-up. Therefore, if Cossacks were to perform various state functions, including security, and will be occupied, this will improve their image in Russia. It is possible the functions of the Cossacks will gradually broaden. And in the end the powers they had before the revolution will be returned — when the Cossacks stood guard for the Russian state and protected Russian borders and so on.”
TASS also reported today that Cossacks would be brought in to guard the 2018 World Soccer Cup which Russia is to host in Sochi.

Nikolai Doluda, ataman of the Kuban Cossacks Troops is cited at the official Russian fan portal

“We have already received a proposal from the main directorate of the Interior Ministry for Krasnodar Territory, and we have reviewed the issue of additional deployment of Cossacks from the Kuban Cossacks Troops to maintain public order at the Confederations Cup which will take place from June 19-29, 2017; we will definitely do this.”
He said about 370 Cossacks would guard the sports event.
Russian Cossacks have also joined the newly-created Balkan Cossack Army, RFE/RL reported.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick