Wagner’s former commander sought asylum in Norway after fleeing Russia

Wagner’s former commander sought asylum in Norway after fleeing Russia

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  • Andrei Medvedev says he fears for his life
  • He says he saw murders, abuse of prisoners
  • He says he crossed the Russian Arctic border into Norway

MOSCOW, Jan 17 (Reuters) – A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fought in Ukraine said he fled to Norway and sought asylum in fear for his life after witnessing the killing and abuse of Russian prisoners brought to the front line.

Andrey Medvedev, who joined Wagner on July 6, 2022 on a four-month contract, said in a video released by human rights group that he crossed the northern Arctic border with Norway before being detained by Norwegian police.

Medvedev, an orphan who joined the Russian army and served time in prison before defecting to Wagner, said he slipped away from the group after witnessing the killing of captured deserters by Wagner.

“I’m afraid of dying in agony,” Medvedev told Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the human rights group, which said it helped Medvedev leave Russia after he approached the group in fear for his life.

He said he crossed the snowy border, climbing over barbed-wire fences and evading border patrol dogs, and heard guards firing as he ran through forest and on thin, breaking ice toward Norway.

Local Norwegian police said a foreign national was arrested on the night of Thursday-Friday after illegally crossing the Russian-Norwegian border north of the Arctic Circle and seeking asylum.

His Norwegian lawyer said Medvedev was now in the “Oslo area” but gave no details. “What is important to him (Medvedev) is that the immigration authorities clarify his status as soon as possible,” lawyer Brynulf Risnes told Reuters.

Kripos, Norway’s national criminal police service in charge of investigating war crimes, said on Tuesday it wanted to question Medvedev.

“He explained himself that he was part of the Wagner group and it was interesting for Kripos to have information about that period,” Kripos said in a statement.

“Medvedev has the status of a witness.

Risnes said Medvedev had not yet spoken to the Norwegian Security Police (PST) and no agreement had been reached for an interview. “I’m sure that will be an issue at some point,” said Risnes, who declined to say where Medvedev was fighting in Ukraine.

“He says he was involved in a fight that he says was a clear combat situation … and that he was not in contact with civilians,” Risnes said.

Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Medvedev worked in a Norwegian department of Wagner and “mistreated prisoners.”

“Be careful, he is very dangerous,” Prigozhin said in a statement released by his spokeswoman. He did not address allegations of killings or ill-treatment of prisoners in the statement.

In interviews with Gulagu, Medvedev said he became disaffected after his contract was repeatedly extended by Wagner without his consent. He said he witnessed the killing and abuse of Russian prisoners who were brought to the front by Wagner.

Medvedev said losses were very high after Wagner began sending large numbers of prisoners to the Ukrainian front in the second half of 2022. Wagner’s Homeland Security Office imposed extreme penalties, Medvedev said.

He said a person who was shown in November was filled with a the blacksmith’s hammer was part of his part.

Wagner’s statement did not address Medvedev’s accounts of the punishment and battlefield losses, or that his contract had been repeatedly extended.

Prigogine said that Wagner was an effective fighting force because he had extensive battlefield experience, was well supplied, had a meritocratic command system in which everyone could contribute, and “the strictest discipline”.

Russia sent tens of thousands of armed forces into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special military operation” to “denazify” its neighbor and protect Russian security.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and Gwladys Fuchs in Oslo Editing by Andrew Havens, Nick McPhee and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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