Andrei Medvedev: former Wagner commander flees to Norway


A former commander of Russia’s private military company Wagner has fled to Norway and is seeking asylum after crossing that country’s polar border, Norwegian police and a Russian activist said.

Andrei Medvedev said in an interview with a Russian activist who helps people seek asylum abroad that he feared for his life after refusing to renew his service with Wagner.

Medvedev said that after completing his contract and refusing to serve another, he was afraid of being executed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – a Wagner defector who was killed on camera with a sledgehammer.

“We were just thrown to fight like cannon fodder,” Vladimir Osechkin, head of human rights advocacy group, told in a conversation posted to YouTube.

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Former Russian mercenary of the Wagner group Marat Gabidullin poses during a photo shoot on May 11, 2022 in Paris.  (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP) (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

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A spokesman for the Norwegian Police Security Service confirmed to CNN on Monday that Medvedev was in Norway and applied for asylum.

“This is a local police investigation so far,” Eirik Veum told CNN. “But the Security Service is informed and of course follows the investigation.”

The group of mercenaries, led by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, has emerged as a key player in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has recently seen heavy fighting in the small eastern town of Soledar.

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The group is often described as the off-the-books troops of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has expanded its global presence since its inception in 2014 and has been accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria and Ukraine.

Medvedev said he crossed the border at the Russian city of Nikel, in a phone call from Norway to Osechkin, which was published online.

The report is consistent with that of Finnmark police precinct, which, without naming Medvedev, said it made an “undramatic” arrest of a man in Pasvik on the Norwegian side of the border at 1:58 am on Friday, January 13.

Medvedev said he had crossed the border 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 during the phone call. “While I was on my way, I was approached by the border guard and the police. I was taken to a ward, where I was interrogated and charged with illegal crossing. I explained everything to them and told them why I did it.”

“It was a miracle that I could end up here,” he said.

Medvedev had previously tried to enter Finland twice and had failed, Osechkin told CNN on Monday.

Wagner’s head Prigozhin confirmed on Telegram on Monday that Medvedev had served in his company, saying he “should have been prosecuted for attempted prisoner abuse”.

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In a December conversation with Osechkin, which was published on YouTube, Medvedev denied committing crimes in Ukraine.

“I signed a contract with the group on July 6, 2022. I was appointed commander of the first squad of the 4th platoon of the 7th assault detachment,” he recalls. “When the prisoners arrived, the situation in Wagner really changed. They stopped treating us like people. We were just thrown to fight like cannon fodder.

“Every week they sent more prisoners to us. We have lost many men. Casualties were high. In our platoon alone we would lose 15 to 20 men. As far as I know, the majority of them are buried in LPR [Luhansk People’s Republic] and reported missing. If you are reported missing, there is no benefit to the next of kin.”

He claimed prisoners were “shot for refusing to fight or betrayal”.

“I fear for my life,” he said in December. “I have not committed a crime. I have refused to participate in Yevgeny Prigozhin’s maneuvers.

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Leader of the notorious Russian Wagner group, Putin is said to have confronted the war

Osechkin told CNN on Monday that he began helping Medvedev after being approached by a friend in late November.

Prigozhin, he explained, had ordered all contracts to be automatically renewed from November. When Medvedev refused to renew, he was beaten, Osechkin claimed.

“Andrei decided to leave Wagner,” Osechkin told CNN. “When this happened, he was wanted by Wagner security services and Russian special services. There was a threat to his life.”

“He was afraid that he would be executed in the same way as Yevgeny Nuzhin – with a sledgehammer. We, as human rights defenders, decided to help him and protect his life.”

Osechkin said he helped Medvedev with groceries, clothes and a phone.

“We are not trying to justify his actions in relation to his participation in Wagner Group. But it should be clear that he decided to flee the Wagner Group as a terrorist organization that kills both Russians and Ukrainians.”

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