Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 76

President Yeltsin is using his visit to the North Caucasus — traditional Cossack heartland — to showcase his strategy for co-opting Russia’s resurgent Cossack movement. Yesterday he visited Budennovsk, the village in Stavropol krai that last year witnessed a hostage crisis in which hundreds died, and declared that the 300,000 Cossacks in the North Caucasus are "an immense force" on which the state intends to rely to defend Russia’s borders. The region, Yeltsin said, is now "the southernmost outpost for the protection of Russia’s national interests." (Interfax, April 17) Yeltsin’s aide Nikolai Yegorov said the president had signed three documents aimed at promoting the Cossack revival, and that three more were in preparation. Those signed include orders setting up a Main Administration of Cossack troops under the Russian president, authorizing the performance of state (i.e., military) service by Cossacks, and providing economic incentives for Cossack communities whose members are engaged in such service. The incentives include free plots of land in the border regions, interest-free credits to start farms and build houses, and tax-breaks. (Interfax, April 16)

Yeltsin’s plan to establish Cossack units in the Russian Army was approved yesterday by defense minister Pavel Grachev, who noted that Cossack battalions have already been set up in the North Caucasian military district and that Cossack volunteers are "acting rather well in Chechnya." (Interfax, April 17) Earlier this week, parliamentarian Ramazan Abdulatipov sounded the alarm about Cossack activity in Chechnya, saying it threatened further to inflame historical Chechen-Cossack hostility.

Belarus Opposition Group to Appeal for Polish Sympathy.