Staunton, August 30 – Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Administration wants to deploy Cosssack units loyal to the Kremlin against protesters but up to now has not come up with the money the Cossacks say they need, according to Meduza news agency sources (meduza.io/feature/2019/08/30/pouchastvovat-v-zamechatelnom-dele-vyporot-navalnyat).
The report, however, is more intriguing for two reasons: It shows that even those Cossacks the Putin regime has organized won’t obey orders but feel free to negotiate with the Kremlin and it provides more evidence that those the regime calls “Cossacks” may simply be ordinary people dressed up to look like Cossacks.
One of the pocket Cossack groups has turned the Kremlin down citing the need to be involved with the fall draft, prompting the Presidential Administration to turn to another pocket Cossack group, the Central Cossack Host, in the hopes that it won’t do the same. But the leaders of that Host won’t say whether they have agreed to get involved with crowd control.
And according to a source close to the FSB, many of those the regime wants to use as “Cossacks” against the protesters in fact “are not registered Cossacks” but rather “simply guys from areas near Moscow decked out in Cossack uniforms,” yet another indication that genuine Cossacks are not involved.
(For background on the pseudo-Cossacks and Putin’s use of them earlier, see jamestown.org/program/putins-pseudo-cossacks-assume-larger-role-but-real-cossacks-refuse-to-go-along/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/05/state-supported-pseudo-cossacks-of.html and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/03/cossacks-set-up-russia-wide-group-to.html.)
Andrey Kolesnikov of the Moscow Carnegie Center says that using such people or Donbass veterans who the Kremlin is thinking about using as well reflects the radicalization of the authorities but will only lead to the further radicalization of protesters and thus to more and more violent clashes between them.
Such use of “Cossacks” will have two benefits for the Kremlin, however. On the one hand, it will help distance the regime from the worst excesses given that the media Russian and Western can be counted on to blame “the Cossacks” rather than the regime in their reporting about such events.
And on the other, it gives the regime another object to direct anger against – and even create the basis for the regime to win support if it eventually turns on those it has used to do its dirty work.