MOSCOW (AP) -- About 200 Cossacks will be drafted in to provide security at World Cup games in Russia.
Officials in the southern Rostov region, where five World Cup games are scheduled, said Wednesday they will deploy 200 members of Cossack groups, including 30 on horseback.
They will help security forces around the stadium and airport. Regional treasury director Alexander Palatny said some will double as entertainers with displays of horseback stunt-riding.
''Hosting guests at the tournament is not just a big honor for us, but a big responsibility,'' Palatny said in a statement. ''The Rostov regional government has drawn up an event plan to, on the one hand, ensure guests and residents of the region are safe during the competition, and on the other, to demonstrate Cossackness as one of the calling cards (of the region).''
Cossacks, a paramilitary group dating back to Czarist times, have increasingly been given official status in Russia in recent years. However, they have also faced accusations of exceeding their authority or using violence on duty.
Uniformed Cossacks attracted criticism when they provided security at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and used whips to break up a performance by opposition punk group Pussy Riot. Last year, several hundred Cossacks backed up security forces at Confederations Cup games in Sochi.
They have also been used as volunteer auxiliary police in other cities, often with a focus on breaking up unlicensed street trading or tracking migrants who may be in Russia illegally.