A former Wagner commander flees Russia and seeks asylum in Norway
While last week the Wagner Group claimed the Russian victory in the Ukrainian city of Soledar as their own, one of their former co-religionists fled Russia, asked for asylum in Norway and promised to testify against the atrocities committed by this controversial army of mercenaries.
The man crossed the border between Russia and Norway illegally last Friday, through a territory near the Pasvikelva river valley. "I heard the dogs barking, I turned, I saw people with lights, about 150 meters away, running towards me. I heard two shots, the bullets whizzed past," the man said, recalling the dramatic journey to contact the human rights NGO Gulagu.net, which posted a video with his testimony.
"Barking dogs, whizzing bullets"
The former Russian mercenary crossed the Norwegian border illegally after defecting
Shortly after, he was detained by Norwegian border guards, according to local media in the Nordic country. The Vardens Gang newspaper confirmed that his name is Andrei Medvedev, 26, who had been a unit commander of the Wagner Group and had fought in Ukraine.
The Norwegian authorities explained shortly after that he had applied for asylum.
Medvedev's Norwegian lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, told the BBC that he was being transferred to the country's capital, Oslo, on Monday, where he will face charges of entering the country illegally.
Medvedev had led the unit in which an ex-convict allegedly executed by his ex-comrades with a sledgehammer fought.
Medvedev is no longer in police custody, but in a "safe place" while the case is analyzed. "If he gets asylum in Norway that charge will automatically be dismissed," Risnes said.
He claimed that the Russian defected and that he had witnessed war crimes in Ukraine. "He has stated that he wants to talk about his experiences in the Wagner Group to people who are investigating war crimes," he added.
The NGO Gulagu.net assures that Medvedev is already testifying about extrajudicial murders committed by the mercenaries and against his boss, the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman from St. Petersburg known as "Putin's chef" for his restaurant business and his contracts for catering with the Kremlin.
According to Gulagu.net, Medvedev led the unit in which Yevgeny Nuzhin, a convicted murderer who had been recruited by Wagner and who had surrendered to Ukrainian troops, was fighting. Recaptured by Wagner, he was allegedly executed by his former comrades, who accused him of deserting. In November, a video of Nuzhin being beaten to death with a sledgehammer was posted on Telegram.
According to Vladimir Osechkin, founder of Gulagu.net, Medvedev is a former soldier in the Russian Army. He then spent time in prison between 2017 and 2018. He joined the paramilitary group in July 2022 and signed a four-month contract. Disappointed with what he witnessed, he defected when the contract was renewed several times without his consent and after witnessing the murder and mistreatment of Russian convicts that Wagner had recruited and brought to the front.
It is not in Norway that Medvedev is speaking for the first time of the atrocities committed by these soldiers of fortune. In December he appeared in a video broadcast on Telegram in which he explained that he had witnessed several extrajudicial killings carried out by the Wagners. It would be the punishment applied against comrades who would have refused to enter combat in Ukraine.
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