In dozens of cities across Russia, men like the officer depicted here are increasingly assuming low-level security functions previously reserved for the police. They are members of state-registered Cossack organizations.
The men are unarmed, except for an occasional Cossack saber, and are legally forbidden to do anything except prevent a crime in progress and alert the police. They cannot take suspects into police custody, but merely hold them until the police arrive.
Nevertheless, as Cossack numbers and ambitions grow, they have been raising the eyebrows of many citizens who see in them the rise of a pro-Kremlin paramilitary force, unbound by law, waiting to pounce on enemies of the state, just as their ancestors were.
Those fears appeared to be confirmed in August when it was rumoured that there appeared to be a plan to hire Cossacks to help police target illegal migrants – mostly from Russia’s Muslim southern flank – to crack down on crime and maintain the region’s racial balance.
Under the plan, Cossack watchmen would receive additional police powers and, for the first time, a salary.
Experts interviewed by The Moscow Times described the Cossack movement as part of a Kremlin-guided revival that began in the waning days of the Soviet Union and has continued piecemeal into the present.
Source: The Moscow Times