A former commander in Russia’s secret war agency Wagner has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after crossing the country’s arctic border, Norwegian police and a Russian diplomat said.
Andrei Medvedev, in an interview with a Russian supporter who helps people seek asylum abroad, said he feared for his life when he refused to resume his work with Wagner.
Medvedev said that after he wrote his contract, and refused to serve someone else, he was afraid that he would be killed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – who escaped from Wagner who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.
He told Vladimir Osechkin, the head of Gulagu.net, a human rights group, in an interview published on YouTube, “We were thrown to fight like fodder for animals.
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A spokesperson for Norway’s police security service confirmed to CNN Monday that Medvedev is in Norway seeking asylum.
“This is a local police investigation,” Eirik Veum told CNN. “But the security forces, we were told, will follow the investigation.”
This mercenary group, led by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – most recently carrying out several attacks in the small eastern town of Soledar.
The video shows the fighting between the Ukrainian and Russian forces
The group is often described as an outpost army in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s book. It has expanded its footprint around the world since its creation in 2014, and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.
Medvedev said he crossed the border near the Russian town of Nikel, in a phone call from Norway to Osechkin, which was published online.
The account coincided with the Finnmark police region, who did not call Medvedev, said that he made the “unprecedented” arrest of a man in Pasvik on the Norwegian side of the border at 1.58 am on Friday, January 13.
In his own account, Medvedev said he overstepped his bounds and approached the first house he could find.
“I told a local woman in broken English about my situation and asked for help,” he told Osechkin on the phone. “While I was on the way, I was approached by border guards and police. I was taken to a unit, where I was interrogated and charged with illegal crossing. I explained everything to them and told them why I did it.”
He said: “It’s a miracle I managed to get this far.
Medvedev has tried to cross Finland twice and failed, Osechkin told CNN Monday.
Wagner’s head, Prigozhin, announced in Telegram Monday that Medvedev served in his office, and said that “he should be prosecuted for trying to abuse prisoners.”
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In a December interview with Osechkin, published on YouTube, Medvedev denied that he had committed any crime in Ukraine.
“I signed a contract with the group on the 6th of July 2022. I was appointed commander of the first squad of the 4th platoon of the 7th assault detachment,” he recalled. “When the prisoners started arriving, Wagner’s situation really changed. They stopped treating us like human beings. We were thrown to fight like cannon fodder.”
“Every week, they send us many prisoners. We lost many men. High mortality. We will lose 15 to 20 men in our platoon alone. As far as I know, most of them are buried in LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] and declared missing. If you are declared missing, there is no insurance for your relatives.”
He said that the prisoners were “shot because they refused to fight or betray the people.”
“I fear for my life,” he said in December. “I have not committed any crime. I refused to participate in the movement of Yevgeny Prigozhin. ”
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Osechkin told CNN Monday that he started helping Medvedev when a friend approached him at the end of November.
Prigozhin, he explained, had ordered the automatic renewal of all contracts starting in November. When Medvedev refused to renew, he was beaten, Osechkin said.
“Andrei decided to leave Wagner,” Osechkin told CNN. “As soon as this happened, Wagner’s security forces and Russian special forces wanted him. There was a danger to his life.”
“He was afraid that he would be killed in the same way that was done to Yevgeny Nuzhin – killed with a sledgehammer. We, as defenders of human rights, decided to help him and protect his life.”
Osechkin said he helped Medvedev with a right hand, clothes, and phone.
“We are not trying to justify his actions in connection with his participation in the Wagner Group. But it should be understood that he decided to dismiss the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization that kills both Russians and Ukrainians.”