Famed Russian Cossacks are to be deployed on Moscow's city streets to patrol against illegal vendors. Their glamorous image will be somewhat tarnished by the necessity of hopping onto public buses rather than riding on horseback.
The Cossacks will patrol in full uniform but missing their trademark sabres as they help police to patrol areas of Moscow where illegal street vendors tout cheap sunglasses, flowers and mobile phones. En Ria reported Nikolai Komarovsky, adviser to Moscow’s Committee for Cossack Affairs, said 600 Cossacks will be deployed.
The patrols will be staffed by volunteers whose only renumeration will be free bus passes around the city. In addition to tackling the problem of illegal street vendors the Cossacks will patrol unruly playgrounds and look out for juvenile delinquents, help emergency services check for fire safety and help to promote public respect for the police.
Cossack Mamay, the ideal image of Cossack in Ukrainian folklore (circa 1890)
The Telegraph foresees that the Cossacks may promote nervousness among the city's Muslims and other minority groups. Earlier this year Cossacks were used in the Krasnodar region to "squeeze out" immigrants who were behaving "rudely."
In spite of several reports attesting to the imminent deployment of Cossack patrols the Moscow Times says City Hall has denied them, saying they are unaware of any such plans. Vasily Solovyov, aide to Cossack chief Valery Nalimov, said: "It's unfortunate that this newspaper (Izvestia) is making preliminary statements and running around with sensational rumors."
Even as he denied the reports it was acknowledged that active Cossack patrolmen were working in the southeast of the city as part of a plan to integrate Cossacks into law enforcement.
If nothing else the presence of the military troops should prove a tourist attraction for Moscow.