Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The arrival of a group of Russian Cossacks in Bosnia ahead of elections there has stirred controversy in the Balkan nation.

The Bosnian Serb Ministry of Culture insists the group of 150 that arrived a few days ago are artists. The group's leader Nikolai Djakonov told media they will take part in a festival.

But Bosnian media has aired footage showing Djakonov commanding over a paramilitary unit in Crimea that helped the region secede from Ukraine.

Journalist Slobodan Vaskovic told the AP Friday he suspects the Cossacks were brought by incumbent Milorad Dodik to stir trouble in case he loses elections on October 12.

Dodik's ambition is to have the Serb region declare independence from Bosnia. He often emphasized his close ties with Putin whom Serbs see as their ally.