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Times: Putin sends for Cossacks in "fight against terrorism"

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  • Norbert Strade
    The Times July 02, 2005 Putin sends for Cossacks in fight against terrorism From Julian Evans in Moscow NAPOLEON once said: “Give me 20,000 Cossacks and I
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 3, 2005
      The Times

      July 02, 2005

      Putin sends for Cossacks in fight against terrorism

      From Julian Evans in Moscow

      NAPOLEON once said: “Give me 20,000 Cossacks and I will conquer the
      whole of Europe, and even the whole world.” Now, President Putin is
      enlisting the help of the Cossack ethnic minority to keep order in
      Russia’s volatile southern regions. The President has introduced
      personally to the Russian Duma a Bill that would create special Cossack
      security units to preserve law and order and fight terrorism.

      It could become law this month. About 600,000 Cossacks would be eligible
      to join the units, the first of which could be formed by the end of the
      year. The move would mean Cossacks returning, after a 90-year hiatus, to
      their traditional role as tough defenders of Russia’s border regions.

      The need for such defence was underlined yesterday as eleven soldiers
      were killed and more than twenty people, including civilians, were
      injured when a lorry carrying troops was blown up by a radio-controlled
      bomb in Makhachkala, capital of the restive Dagestan region that borders

      Cossacks were bands of freemen who lived in what is now the south of
      Russia, defying the authority of tsars and Ottoman princes and
      conducting armed raids on both sides. Eventually they swore allegiance
      to the Russian tsars and, as cavalry, were at the vanguard of the
      expansion of the Russian empire into Siberia and the Caucasus. Their
      culture and way of life was brutally suppressed under the Soviet Union.

      Cossacks now want to pick up their long tradition of military service to
      the Russian state. Sergei Buzinov, the deputy Ataman (chief) of the
      Cossack Military Society in Rostov-on-Don, said: “We want to defend the
      motherland. Historically, Cossacks served together, under a special bond
      of brotherhood.”

      General Gennadi Troshin, formerly commander of the federal troops in the
      Chechen republic and now presidential aide on Cossack issues, told the
      Russian media that Cossacks could play an important role in protecting
      Russia’s southern borders, where Islamic extremism and ethnic divisions
      have fostered unrest. Mr Buzinov agreed, saying: “About 1,200 Cossack
      voluntary organisations exist in Russia, where Cossacks, on foot or on
      horseback, help to maintain law and order in Russian cities.” (*)

      Analysts have mixed feelings about the proposal. The Cossacks’
      reputation for bravery stands, and their strong traditions could make
      them more immune to corruption than the FSB (the KGB’s successor) or
      conventional military.

      Alexei Malashenko, Caucasus expert at the Carnegie Endowment for
      International Peace in Moscow, said that Mr Putin did not trust his
      official units. “The secret services, for example, made a mess of
      Beslan. Someone has to protect ethnic Russians”

      However, Ivan Safranchuk, the director in Moscow of the Centre for
      Defence Information, said: “Cossacks now are indivisible from
      nationalists. This (plan) is very dangerous.”

      Unofficial volunteer units of Cossacks, which are active in regions such
      as Rostov or Krasnodar, have been accused by some human rights
      organisations of acting as vigilante paramilitaries, harassing and
      beating other ethnic minorities.


      * It must be added here that a substantial part of today's "Cossacks"
      have no Cossack roots (especially after the eradication of large Cossack
      groups under Stalin). Putin's "Cossacks" are often little more than
      local village rabble in phantasy uniforms, who are living out their
      phantasies of violence against even weaker groups. A useful reservoir
      for yet another Fascist organization. "General" Troshin (who actually is
      of real Cossack decent) is the perfect example. During his time in
      Chechnya, he did not distinguish himself by military achievements, but
      became (in)famous for his Nazi-style cruelty - like organizing games for
      his fellow "Russian officers" in which Chechens were torn by dogs. This
      is the standard type of new man in the times of the little dictator. N.S.
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