The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Russian Deputy PM: Cossack 'held accountable' for whipping attack on Pussy Riot

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SOCHI, Russia - Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Saturday the Cossack who horsewhipped members of Pussy Riot has been "held accountable" for the attack.

The punk group spent five days in Sochi this week, filming footage for its new video criticizing President Vladimir Putin and the Sochi Olympics. A group of Cossacks armed with whips was in central Sochi on Wednesday. Minutes after the group started to perform its song, one Cossack began lashing his whip.

Asked about the band's treatment in Sochi, Kozak would not specifically say what action was taken against the attacker. Local media reported Friday he was fined, but they did not identify him.

Kozak insisted the women "came here with the purpose of provoking a conflict" and added that the "conflict" they had was with "local residents."

Russia has mounted a massive security operation for the Olympics, deploying more than 50,000 police and soldiers amid threats from Muslim insurgents. A Muslim militant group in the Russian province of Dagestan claimed responsibility for back-to-back suicide bombings that killed 34 people in Volgograd in late December and threatened attacks on the games.

The Cossacks have been used since last year as an auxiliary police force to patrol the streets in the Krasnodar province, which includes the Winter Olympic host city.

Kozak said Russian officials "worried" about security, but "just as any government in any country would no matter if it is holding the Olympics or any other major public event."

Kozak lauded the work of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies at the Sochi Games, which so far have been uneventful regarding security.

"We were confident that our law enforcement agencies would be up to the task, and they did brilliantly," he said.

Cossacks trace their history in Russia back to the 15th century. Serving in the czarist cavalry, they spearheaded imperial Russia's expansion and were often used as border guards. Under communism, they virtually disappeared, but have since resurfaced, particularly in the south. They are now recognized as an ethnic group, but it is largely a self-identification by those who consider themselves descendants of the czarist-era horsemen.

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